January 14, 2022
This is the fifth in a series of guest blogs by the 2021-22 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Janet Swarthout is a speech and drama teacher at Caro High School in Caro Community Schools.
For a few short days, schools are out for our winter holiday, which gives teachers like me a chance to rest, reflect and restore a sense of balance. Self-care has become the mantra for educators in 2021, but let’s take a few moments to ponder what we have learned and experienced this past year, and what we might need to do in the next year to keep our needs and our students’ education on track.
While online learning is still taking place, most teachers are back in the classroom meeting with students face to face. Although we were familiar with the routines, what we experienced wasn’t like the years of past. We now faced students who did not always remember how to behave in a classroom, students eager to spend time with each other socially but not necessarily educationally prepared for what happens within the walls of school. Teachers needed different mindsets and skills to teach during this time.
A shortage of regular and substitute teachers has also had a major impact on our schools this fall. Without a supply of instructors to replace someone when they are ill, it has fallen on colleagues to pitch in and cover classrooms. For example, for one week I filled in for our choir teacher, band director and science teacher on what was supposed to be my work and planning period. While we certainly missed our preparation time, we were able to recognize and appreciate what our co-workers experience and teach each day.
Add to this the devastating experience at Oxford High School, which struck with such debilitating terror. Now, a different set of talents was needed, one which reminded every teacher what we are supposed to do during a crisis such as this: keep our students and ourselves secure. The aftermath required us to reassure students that schools are, despite this tragedy, still one of the safest places to be. We needed to infuse them with the knowledge that we can be resilient and there’s a future out there for each of them.
How do we continue these accomplishments as educators in 2022? By resolving to keep our eyes, hearts and lessons focused on what drew us to the field of education to begin with. Here are the resolutions I am proposing to finish the 2021-22 school year strong:
- To make sure I get enough sleep each night as I know a weary teacher is not at his/her best
- To take a few minutes at my desk before the day begins, meditating on positive thoughts or prayers
- To engage with my colleagues in meaningful conversations about what is happening in our school with our students
- To ask for assistance when I begin to feel overwhelmed without feeling ashamed or embarrassed
- To see each student as an individual who needs me and the instruction I am giving them, even if they don’t realize it
- To fulfill my obligation to mentor and offer assistance to the newer teachers
- To remember that I am called to this field; it’s not a career that was chosen on a whim
- To be thankful for each day I am given in the classroom, even on those days when things didn’t go the way I planned or wanted
As a veteran teacher with 44 years in the classroom, I have seen and experienced many changes through the years. But what has drawn me back into the classroom every fall is the sea of faces that greet me. We have the most important role in society. We are the ones entrusted to teach the children how to make this world a better place. Please join me in resolving to make the rest of this school year the best one yet. Our students need us to lead the way by being positive and excited for what lies ahead.