Endurance, today’s topic, is the power to withstand stress or hardship. Yet, when I hear or see the word, I almost always picture a runner in a race such as the Olympics. In fact, when I think about it, I almost never use this word in any other way. That really is strange when I think about the actual definition of the word.
The reason I am surprised is that endurance is really a big part of my life. Each year of teaching brings another group of students and parents into my life with different expectations, standards and discipline ideas. I always find it interesting and a challenge trying to get all our differences to mesh as we seek to educate the child. Thus, school often becomes an endurance test. Can we all survive the ten months of school without a major upset?! Usually, we all do survive, and the child meets the standards set before us. We celebrate with awards and promotion to the next level of learning.
However, once in a while, we get a certain student who puts teachers through a stressful endurance test. Most often, these students have mastered the art of manipulation and are carefully pitting parent against teacher, etc. It takes a great deal of courage, inner strength, and determination to endure such a relationship. I have been through several of these situations during my career. Even though success may have been the outcome, the energy required to endure the task ultimately takes a toll on the person…I speak from experience. Perhaps the reason for this is that an investment is being made by the teacher in the life of that student.
I think one reason for struggles and problems in many of our nation’s schools is that teachers are living an endurance test. School board members and administrators often distance themselves from the stress and hardships of the classroom. I know for a fact that many college professors teach their students about educating without having the actual classroom experience themselves. Thus, teachers enter classrooms without adequate preparation in classroom management. This is like throwing the person in a hungry lions’ den. Students find safety in numbers as well as partners in their manipulations.
As I have stated before, I learned simultaneously in the classroom and the college lab. I could understand the needs of my classroom and ask the professors for on-the-job help and suggestions. It certainly made me a better teacher. I took that experience and made myself teach in the classroom as well as administrate. I put myself on the firing line, so to speak. I made mistakes, faced seemingly impossible goals, and took the hits as well as the praises from parents and students. I did not hide out in the office.
Just this past Friday, I saw once again why endurance is necessary and in the long run, why it is also a blessing. As my students and I compared their work of the day with some from the beginning of the school year, we were amazed at the levels of accomplishment! Wow! Yes, some had a little more to accomplish than others, but everyone was better than when he/she started the year. So, one mountain has been scaled, and now we move on to the next summit! Thanks to a Thanksgiving break, I think I am ready for the pre-holiday chaos that teachers know too well! That’s endurance.