Resuscitating the Manifesto in 2018

This is objectively the longest I have gone in the past 2 years without posting on this blog. It feels weird. It is also a reflection of the fact that this school year has been a tricky one for me. Despite this being my second year at LCA and despite my meeting this year with an already-prepared and tested curriculum, I have found this year to be taxing and tiring in new and unexpected ways. I have found my energy levels and enthusiasm flagging. And I have consequently found myself battling guilt for my flagging energy levels and enthusiasm, which is objectively unhelpful.

Regardless of the reasons for and legitimacy of my fatigue, I’m realizing the necessity of reviving my Teaching Manifesto for this academic year. Things that seemed self-evident and inevitable as I gleefully typed them in the rosy dusk of summer vacation have unexpectedly become more challenging this year as temperatures and energy levels plummet.

And so I spent some time this afternoon reflecting on commitments I made to myself, my colleagues, and my students before this school year began. And I’ve compiled a list for myself to meditate on in the breathing room that Christmas vacation offers. I selected these items from my manifesto as the ones I have struggled with the most over this past academic year. These are the commitments that I can’t say I’ve truly succeeded in keeping. These are the commitments that I want to prayerfully and carefully resuscitate in this new calendar year.

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, although I like the idea of them. So, as far as resolutions for 2018 go, this is probably as close as I will get:

I will honor my students:

  • I will only speak with positivity and respect about my students, whether or not they are there to hear what I say. When my students can hear what I am saying, I will make a conscious effort to praise and affirm each one of them. (While I don’t often speak negatively of my students, I believe I have lapsed in my praise and affirmation of them and their work. My shortage of emotional energy has led me to skimp on the personalized and individualized positivity that should be raging like a wildfire in my classroom.)
  • I will resist the temptation to rely on quick grading schemes, easy teacher-centric lessons, and passive teaching. I will continue to push myself to do the extra work required to promote student choice, empowerment, and involvement. (My lack of enthusiasm has inadvertently resulted in a more teacher-centric classroom dynamic. Partially because of a lack of time, but partially because I am not putting out the energy required to create an invitational classroom, my students sometimes expect my to do the intellectual heavy lifting in our time together. And I have succumbed to that in the moment more often than I’d care to admit.)

I will honor my scholarship:

  • I will continue to reflect on my practice and connect with others in my field through my blog and Twitter account. (This seems self explanatory.)
  • I will make time to continue my own practices as a reader and a writer, creating space to read and write for a variety of personal and enjoyable reasons. (I have lacked the motivation or energy to engage in or get excited about the things I am writing or reading outside of the classroom. I haven’t regularly extended my creativity and curiosity outside of myself to make something or interact with something in the world around me.)

I will honor myself:

  • I will maintain a healthy, guilt-free faith life, praying, worshipping, and resting in ways that bring me closer to God, enrich my daily life, and shape my pedagogy. (I won’t even try to figure out if my challenges this year have been caused by or resulted in my shortage of time in prayer, worship, or rest in God. Perhaps there is no correlation at all. The point is that there is a shortage.)

The final line item in my 2017-2018 Manifesto will also be the final line item to this resuscitation of said manifesto.

I will push myself to be my best, but I will be kind to myself when I fall short.