Squished like a grape: Does teacher leadership hurt your teaching?

Of all humanity’s wisdom, most has been spoken in some form by Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. Take the following:

“Walk on left side of road, safe. Walk on right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squished just like grape.”

Teacher leaders know the perils of the hybrid path better than anyone. One stumble and you just might manage to alienate colleagues with the left foot, anger administrators with the right. You also might find yourself progressing as a teacher leader while stagnating as a classroom teacher.

Teacher leaders, how do you keep improving as a teacher while developing as a leader? How do you make the time it takes to do both?

Of all humanity’s wisdom, most has been spoken in some form by Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. Take the following:

“Walk on left side of road, safe. Walk on right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squished just like grape.”

Teacher leaders know the perils of the hybrid path better than anyone. One step toward that middle road and you can end up with high stress but low pay, great responsibility but minimal power. Take a stumble and you just might manage a miserable feat: alienate colleagues with the left foot, anger administrators with the right.

That awkward dance is worth the risks for all kinds of reasons. The chance to make school better for students down the hall, across town, or on another continent. The intellectual excitement of taking teacher-conceived innovations to scale. The network of kindred spirits you meet, scattered across the country and the globe.

Still, it’s hard to walk both sides of the road. I’m not sure I could do it well or happily without the exceptional level of support I receive.

I have truly wonderful colleagues and two gifted principals. I also have a job share that lets me teach in the mornings, while leaving afternoons free for projects outside the typical responsibilities of a first grade teacher.

Right now those projects include shaping the strategic vision of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, bringing a teacher’s perspective to a state committee recommending policies for PreK through college, and leading a home library initiative that involves $100,000 to buy 50,000 new books for 2,500 kids and families who need them.

These are meaningful projects and remarkable opportunities. I care deeply about the work, and I have seen it bring about good things for kids in other classrooms, schools, districts, and states.

The problem is that time is a finite resource, and teaching is a craft that can take a lifetime to hone. “The profession that makes all others possible” demands a tremendous investment of time and thought—not just to carry out the complex work of teaching 25 children all they need to learn, but to keep getting better at it every year.

Teacher leadership can fragment that focus. Policy, curriculum, research, and professional development all have an impact on our students. Given that reality, the work is too important to be left entirely to non-teachers. But when we engage in that work while continuing to teach, the dual demands can be brutal.

Teacher leaders, how do you keep improving as a teacher while developing as a leader? How do you find the time it takes to do both?

Sometimes I long for the days before I had all these opportunities to shape the larger system. All my time and thought went to the 25 children in my class, often with remarkable results.

These days, I often feel overrated as a teacher. Legislators or business leaders will clap me on the shoulder and say, “We need more teachers like you.”

I appreciate the sentiment, but I want to ask them, “How do you know? You’ve never seen me teach. You don’t know that all three of my Marshallese students are still reading far below grade-level. You didn’t see me get so frustrated with Jonathan’s struggles in math last week that the poor kid was blinking back tears.”

True, moments of failure are inevitable with a craft as complex as teaching, especially when you surround yourself with remarkable colleagues who are really, really good at it. The gap between how well I teach and how well I think I should be teaching gets wider every year, even if I get better every year, and that’s a good thing.

But I wonder sometimes what would happen if I took all the time I devote to blogging, advising policymakers, and leading professional development, and spent that time just working to become a better first grade teacher.

I might be doing a better job of reaching my struggling readers. I might have nailed the balance between teaching phonics and getting real books into the kids’ hands. I wouldn’t have impacted as many students, but the 23 children in my own class might be better off.


Or maybe without the perspective, ideas, and inspiration I get from other teachers who walk the middle of the road, I’d be a less effective classroom teacher. Maybe my own students would miss out, too.

Maybe getting squished like a grape isn’t such a bad thing, especially if you become wine instead of juice.

I wish I could put this question to the venerable Mr. Miyagi, but he’s not around anymore. So dear reader, if you have the time, I’d love your thoughts.

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  • Mike Stokes

    Banzai, Minkel-san!

    Your question has multiple answers that can change hour by hour. It's ironic in any profession that the better you get at doing what you love to do, the less time you’re afforded to actually do it. It might be wise to stop every so often to evaluate whether you're fulfilling your personal mission and meeting your own metrics – which is probably what you’re doing in writing this piece. Assuming your goal is to make the world a better place, leadership roles can truly have a broader impact on the greater good. But they can also lead you down a rabbit hole where you suddenly wake up with a very real headache from banging your head into a proverbial wall — or worse, wake up to discover that you’ve been sucked into a politico-administrative machine where there is far more activity than results. If this is what you’re feeling, then consider climbing on teh bow of a rowboat and find your balance. You may decide to keep your mission but switch its scope to make the world a better place, right here and now, for the kids in your classroom. They will provide constant reminders that you are making a difference – and may offer the motivation for you to get back into the leadership realm once you’ve recharged, refocused and re-balanced. Choosing a side of the road to stroll doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally cross the middle line without being squished like a grape. Just look both ways and choose your moment. You might even find a fly caught in your chopsticks along the way.

    • JustinMinkel

      Wise words, Mike-san!

      Thanks for the wisdom, Mike. It does become a lot easier to find balance if you think in terms of 5-year chunks of your life instead of a given day, week, or school year. Part of what I like about looping is that I can reflect over the summer and balance out some of the things I realize I should have done more of with the kids in the first year.

      One of the ironies is that that “gut check” kids provide is one of the reasons we need more teachers shaping policy, curriculum, and professional development, but the consuming nature of teaching makes it hard especially for full-time teachers to do that.



  • Mary Beth

    Sp Ed

    Nothing is more fulfilling than teaching in its purest form. Being immersed in a lesson and watching the AHA moments.  However, the "leadership" role exposes me and therefore my students to a broader perspective and like you, results in me continuing to raise the bar.  Being squished like a grape is unpleasant and inevitable for those of us who dare to step out into the middle ,but the alternative is withering into a raisin.

    • JustinMinkel


      I can always count on this group to take a metaphor and run with it–love the image of a withered raisin. Teaching is so complex because it simultaneously exhausts and renews us. 

      Thanks for the thoughts.

  • ReneeMoore

    Prayer and Priorities


    I could see myself all through your post. It is a constant struggle to juggle all the different “good” things I’m doing or asked to do with my primary job–teaching. I deliberately choose to move to full-time community college as a partial solution to that problem. At the time, and in our area here in the Delta, it was the only way I could continue to teach and have some degree of flexibility or control over my schedule. My husband’s health and my existing commitments made trying to continue at the high school impossible—if I also wanted to continue those other professional projects and involvements.

    I’m going to blog some about that shift and what it has meant for me and my students, but one thing really applies here: I’ve learned to prioritize. Although I attempt to practice it, there really is no such thing as simultaneous multitasking. What we really do is a continual bounce among the different things demanding our attention. That’s why we end up wondering have we done our best on any of them.

    That choice is especially painful for those of us teachers who are also parents or caregivers. Our own families often suffer the most when teachers try to step up and out into hybrid roles, or when many are forced into second jobs (if they can find them).

    The older I get, the more I force myself to choose between good things. I’m getting better not only at turning down requests, but at pointing them towards others who are looking to grow. I pray; then prioritize my own work; then focus on what needs to be done right now and doing it well. Where I think I’m falling off most is on some of the planning I need and used to do around my teaching, so it is an ongoing struggle. 

    But the saddest part is this should not be a struggle. Being able to pursue professional work and goals AND teach should be built into the our professional day as it is for teachers in other nations. I’m hopeful, though, that we are moving closer to making that reality for U.S. teachers.


    • JustinMinkel

      Opening doors for other teacher leaders

      Renee, thanks for your eloquent response. Our profession has known for awhile how important mentors are for new teachers to become effective, but your words are a reminder of how important it is for newer teacher leaders to have more experienced role models like you who have thought through all these tradeoffs over many years and come to peace with them.

      Pretty much everything you wrote resonated with me, but this line in particular: “I’m getting better not only at turning down requests, but at pointing them towards others who are looking to grow.”

      There’s a line attributed to Tolstoy’s work that “The true Christian sees herself/himself not as the main character in the novel, but as a supporting character.” Until this year, almost all the opportunities I did led to great growth for me and to impact on the profession and students in general, but didn’t directly benefit my own school. Suddenly various strands converged this year, leading to three tangible outcomes:

      *Our school was profiled in a video by the US Department of Ed,

      *My principal was invited to join an advisory group meeting with Arne Duncan and other policymakers, and

      *Each teacher at our school and many teachers at two others received funding to create home libraries for their students through a grant that a partner teacher and I applied for.

      My principal and several teachers at our school also started blogging. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in the thought you give to directing opportunities to other teacher leaders, both in terms of keeping your commitments realistic and providing opportunities for teachers who can benefit from them.

      • JustinMinkel

        Time in the day

        One other thought on your reply, Renee: ”  But the saddest part is this should not be a struggle. Being able to pursue professional work and goals AND teach should be built into the our professional day as it is for teachers in other nations. I’m hopeful, though, that we are moving closer to making that reality for U.S. teachers.”

        I had a conversation Thursday with an official at our state department of ed when she mentioned that teachers in some underperforming schools now have their prep period devoted to PLC’s. I told her that at my school, we at one point had our daily 30-minute prep period but also had three protected hours for collaboration: planning units together, setting goals and looking at student work, observing one another, and so on.

        She said, “That’s not normal, though. You have to realize that’s a luxury you have.”

        Her tone was almost a reprimand. My response, of course, was that time to both collaborate with other professionals AND have time to do necessary parts of the job (rather than squeezing those tasks into a 30-minute lunch break) should not be seen as a luxury.

        We have a lot of work to do to shift that thinking.
  • WendiPillars

    So timely

    These questions have been on my mind in full force lately, Justin. Renee, your wisdom is soothing to me. It doesn’t make things any easier or simpler, but it’s good to know my own thoughts are in good company…

    I have been wondering lately what all the struggling is worth–it IS such a constant struggle. Part of me wishes for the ignorant bliss of my first couple years of classroom-centric teaching and thinking. But now, my concerns are so much broader. I want desperately to see teacher leadership respected, effort and process valued more than one-off standardized outcomes, and a little more honesty when words are said. I’m a woman, mom, and teacher of my word. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect–far from it–but I give it all I’ve got. I want the same in return. 

    Unfortunately, Renee, you nailed it–“What we really do is a continual bounce among the different things demanding our attention. That’s why we end up wondering have we done our best on any of them.”  

    And wondering what is worthwhile when everything feels like a fight. As a parent, there’s always guilt that I’m spending more time worrying about my students than my own son. There’s always a desire to see my school rise mightily above its former self, and for other teachers to share the passion I have. When progress feels slow to nonexistent in any of those areas, frustration, wonder, and exasperation set in.  I start to wonder if my expectations are unreasonable, or if I’m looking for/ at the wrong things. 

    Justin, I know you asked for solutions, but I couldn’t help relating. I’m so excited for you to have such supportive administrators who are proactive. I believe it is an indicator of the health of the entire district when this happens–and that’s something to celebrate! (along with your hybrid schedule!) Tell me how the 3 hours worked out for your staff? Do you still have that? 

    As for how to deal with things, like Renee, I find myself praying and learning to prioritize better. But the latter is hard–I used to have my hands in most aspects of the school in my last position. This year, I  am learning the ropes at a new school, and this semester have 3 new classes–2 of which I am creating the curriculum as we go. It’s a LOT of work. I want it to be perfect, but I know that’s unreasonable –so I’m easing off a bit. 

    I deal with complacency (for lack of a better word) in my department (teachers who arrive 15 minutes before the bell and leave within minutes after the last bell, since many are coaches) by doing the best I can with what I have and the information I’ve been given. For co-teaching, though, it’s far from effective.

    I tend to internalize concerns right now because of fear of retribution, but take solace in my own classes. I struggle immensely with the idea that admin considers “mediocrity” acceptable, but I find deep, deep value in my PLN, and a small local tribe of like-minded teachers. More than anything, these latter two, along with my hard-headedness to drive on forward, have gotten me through each day. The fact that I know what else is “out there”, and the many positive things that are happening, keeps me in a delightful state of wholesome discontent. Enough for me to puzzle through my days and hope that struggle will lead to increasingly better outcomes for my school, district, and our profession. One day at a time. 

    This (nerdy) video about the domino effect reminds me how one small action or interaction can have enough energy to create huge impacts–in time. Also good to remember. And so I drive on. 

    Apologies for the long post. This topic resonated immensely with me today. 

    • JustinMinkel

      Is the goal perfection or forward movement?

      Wendi, when I read responses like yours, it strikes me both how thoughtful this “karass” is (Kurt Vonnegut’s invented word for a community of like-minded spirits whose fates are intertwined) and how much work all of us are doing. I’ve felt the reverse of the guilt you describe–ever since my daughter was born 7 years ago, and then my son 4 years ago, I’ve shifted so much focus to them that in some ways I was a better teacher before I had kids. I justify the shift of time with the knowledge that my kids will increasingly need less of my time, and I’ll hopefully be teaching for decades, but I know I give less time and head space to my students than I did before becoming a dad. As for anyone who has ever been a single parent, I’m in awe of all of you.

      The forward motion you describe (as a teacher, and as a system) is critical, I think. What often reassures me when I get bogged down on trying to figure out the perfectly balanced system is that our job is not to create a utopia, but to make things better than they are now. I’m on this state committee to shape a vision for education in Arkansas, and we keep coming up against that tension of how much to be aspirational and set forth a bold direction, and how much to acknowledge the limits of the current system and improve things within a realistic framework of “how things are.”

      Finally, quick response to your question on the collaboration time: I loved it; we now have much less time, but we also needed those 3 hours more during our initial rollout of Common Core. We used the time to look at student work, set goals, meet with the various literacy/math coaches, and observe other teachers to learn from them. Admittedly, there were days when our grade-level’s intrinsic motivation waned and we only met for half an hour before going our separate directions to do more typical “prep” things, but even in that case, almost all our time involved things that help our students, like looking over student work or preparing materials.

      At the meeting I referenced, another committe member kept asking, “If we build more collaboration time into the day, how can we monitor how teachers use that time? How can we compel them to actually collaborate during that time?”

      My response is twofold:

      1. What can you live with? In my mind, I can live with 90% of teachers using the time the way it’s intended and 10% running errands or whatever this woman feared they would do. I can’t live with teachers having no time allocated to collaborate, because we get better outcomes for our students when teachers work together.

      2. If you don’t trust a teacher to use collaboration time to collaborate (without being monitored), how can you trust her/him with the fates of 25 or 150 students?

    • MarciaPowell

      There. Right There.

      This quote resonated with me as I have heard the stories of teacher leadership shared over the past two years.

      I tend to internalize concerns right now because of fear of retribution, but take solace in my own classes. I struggle immensely with the idea that admin considers “mediocrity” acceptable, but I find deep, deep value in my PLN, and a small local tribe of like-minded teachers.



      That is difficult for me to hear and for you to bear, Wendi.  I also have had this experience,  along with many other teacher leaders.  The harder you work to make a difference, the more that you advocate, blog, or do work that is beyond the local classroom, the easier it is to become a lightning rod for criticism and a marginalized member of the staff.

      Having an opportunity to work on a variety of projects with gifted administrators that are supporting you seems extremely rare.  Changing that narrative from, “What’s in it for my school?” to “How does this work make for a better system, teacher, and impact for kids?”  often gets ignored in tight budgetary times.  What can we do to build local support networks that truly have a teacher as a decision-making partner, not simply a positon where teacher input is ‘considered?’  Until schools make that mental shift, what we do will be limited by that capacity building of our own community.  


      Teacher leadership, I have come to believe, also builds system capacity by shifting the narrative from testing to learning, memorizing to thinking, and empowerment rather than acquiescence to the status quo.  It is that expression of voice (and not controlling it) that leads to the fear on all sides.  What fear, you say? Teachers fear more work, if they are doing this as a ‘just a 8-3 job,’ administrators fear ‘loose cannons,’ school boards fear ‘non-unified voice,’ and some parents fear ‘improper worldview.’  

      Thank God for small tribes of dedicated people who have moved from fear to possibility.  What we forget is that students need that voice, and the great educators in all the aforementioned categories are trying to communicate those ideas and student potential.

  • Alex Kajitani

    Right Now vs. Burned Out

    Thanks for addressing such important (and often sticky) points, Justin.  While teacher leadership can seem at times to hinder the short term, "students are in front of me and need my help right now" view, there is, at the same time, a long-term view of teacher leadership that needs to be considered.  It helps us stay excited about the profession.  

    Whether it's helping to shape policy, leading at our schools or throughout our communities, or conducting professional development, building our networks and elevating the profession is an antidote to burnout.  And in the long term, that is something that is a tremendous benefit to the students who need us right now.

    • JustinMinkel

      Wonderfully said, Alex.

      Alex, at the first two International Summits on the Teaching Profession, Finland’s delegation described teaching as a “thought profession”–teachers are seen as intellectuals capable of designing research, for example, not just being subjects of others’ research.

      There is a huge intellectual component to the craft of teaching any subject and any age group, of course–as a 1st grade teacher, even if the content is something as uninspiring as number lines or long vowel sounds, the complexity of child development and the way individual kids approach number and print makes the teaching of the skill complicated and compelling.

      But what you said resonates with me–without the constant “zoom out” big picture and insights from kindred spirits, I’d have more time for my classroom but less enthusiasm and a smaller perspective.

      Thanks for the reminders and insights.


  • SandyMerz

    Agree completely

    This is such a timely post, Justin. I’ve been heavily involved in the teacher leader movement now since about 2012 – for the first couple of years, I don’t think my teaching took a hit because, frankly, I had a lot of momentum. Most my lessons were still fairly new and didn’t need much revision and my day to day classroom edge was still sharp. But this year I’ve felt for the first time my classroom practiceneeded, if not a make-over, at least a touch-up. Fortunately, I have a summer fairly free of teacher leader commitments and am quite illusioned to get back to the art of creating instruction from scratch. (In fact, I’m not waiting for the summer!) 

    Your post brings up an interesting point. I wonder if it’s common in the arch of a teacher leader to face the question – Am I compromising my teaching, which is after all the root of my credibility as a teacher leader? And if so, what are my options? 

    This week, I’ve been weighing adding a point to my Teacher Leader Manifesto (which is getting a lot of play). I don’t I will, because I start the second paragraph with, “As an accomplished teacher…” which means that what follows is only valid as long as I remain one. 

    I’d love to hear veterans in TL movement comment on this. Thanks again for this terrific point. 

    • JustinMinkel

      Can you be an accomplished teacher if you don’t improve?

      Great points, Sandy. My question is whether you can be an accomplished teacher if you’re relatively good but aren’t making much progress year to year. In other words, if you’re standing still, are you actually moving backward?

      I ask this because our profession suffers from such high attrition that I think after 5 or 10 years, you can be relatively effective without putting in a ton of work to improve your teaching, but you can’t keep improving without putting in that work. I’m always troubled by research that teachers don’t improve much after 5 years, and while many policymakers use that to say we don’t need veteran teachers, I think that where the stat is true, it’s more a failure of system of professional development and growth–especially since most high-performing nations don’t report similar stagnation.

      Part of the positive impact of teacher leadership on one’s own students, I think, is that it keeps you absorbing a flood of challenging new ideas, perspectives, and techniques. But that recalibration of time you describe is critical–how much time am I devoting to teacher leadership (i.e. writing blogs/curricula, delivering PD to others, changing larger systems) vs. how much time am I spending on my own growth specific to my craft as a (fill in the blank–1st grade teacher, middle school math teacher…)

      Thanks for the insights.

      • Amy Lardie


        I'm wondering if that five-year statistic also reflects increasing family obligations. This is a time when many teachers have begun their own families, dividing their energies even more. While parenting children makes you more empathetic, there is only a finite amount of time and energy each day. I'd be curious to see what happens at year ten or fifteen when family demands change. Now that my son is a teen, I find that I read more professional literature (since he's pretty self-sufficient) than say Moo, Baa, La La La.

  • TarynSnyder

    Wow, I’m inspired by your

    Wow, I’m inspired by your comments and experiences and feel like I’m in good company to have experienced similar feelings in my relatively short time as a teacher.

    I’m a fourth year teacher at a teacher-powered school in Boston. I love my time in my classroom with my 24 third graders. They are the reason why I WANT to participate on so many committees, boards, programs, initiatives, etc. I want to be a better teacher for them and feel like by keeping them front-of-mind when making decisions around choosing a math curriculum on our Math Leadership Committee or tracking vertical alignment of our standards on the Teaching and Learning Committee makes me a better teacher in the long run. By participating in all of these areas, I’m getting more knowledge and ideas to bring back to my classroom. And, I’m making decisions for our school with my students in the forefront of my mind.

    It’s not easy to do it all. I’m not good at balancing everything on my plate and spend more time working than not, but at the end of each day, I feel like regardless of how I spent my time during the workday, it was driven by my third graders or for their benefit in the long run. Even if it was time spent out of the classroom. 

    • JustinMinkel


      Taryn, that sense of “being in good company” is a huge factor in why I love this work and keep finding the right balance, with plenty of help from kindred spirits in our profession–people in my own building, friends in other states, and colleagues like you who I’ve never met but whose words help me get better at both teaching and teacher leadership.

      When my wife and I were taking childbirth classes, the instructor explained that there are two kinds of pain–objective and subjective–and that while you can’t do anything to change objective pain, there’s a lot you can do to impact the perception of pain. The two main ones she mentioned were feeling in control and feeling supported by other people, rather than out of control and alone/isolated. The camaraderie of kindred spirits with the same joys and struggles is a powerful antidote to isolation.

  • David Bosso

    The “tension of opposites”

    A few thoughts: first, excellent as always – plenty of food for thought and so smoothly written. You capture the "tension of opposites" very well, and this balance is certainly a delicate one many of us face. We (primarily admins and policymakers) seem to have this default expectation that teachers must be in their classrooms 100% with students to be effective and deserving of our salaries. Nevertheless, so many teachers are enhancing the profession by reaching beyond their schools and districts to seek new knowledge and skills, bolstering each others' abilities through relevant professional development, and together raising the status of the profession. By extension, this improves our pedagogical and leadership capacity to better serve our students. Also, as we work toward elevating our fellow professionals and educational environments, our collective efficacy and morale will be strengthened. When teacher leadership becomes more ingrained in educational culture and nomenclature, many of the challenges you so aptly present will be considered issues of a bygone era. I also enjoy your writing – thanks again for what you do for students and teachers, Justin.

    • JustinMinkel

      Other professions

      Dave, thanks for the thoughtful response and the kind words. Parallels to other professions are often useful, and my sense is that for doctors, for example, the time they spend collaborating with colleagues, reviewing research, and analyzing patients’ case files are seen as hours they’re “on the job,” while in less enlightened schools, time for collaboration, reflection, and professional growth are often seen as peripheral luxuries for teachers.

      I do think that’s changing (Brianna Crowley’s post on her recent visit to Washington, posted April 10, gave me some concrete reasons for hope.) I think the most important thing we can do is to speak from a position of student needs and link elements of our job like collaboration time to better outcomes for students. 

      I’ve seen some nefarious “reformers” do some pretty atrocious things under the guise of “what’s best for kids,” but I’ve also seen teachers (including BAT and old-school unions) lose some credibility by framing so much of what they wanted as grievances based on teacher needs rather than aspirational solutions based on student needs.

      Part of what I love about both NNSTOY (National Network of State Teachers of the Year) and the Collaboratory is that the constructive focus on solutions tied to student needs is ever present.


  • akrafel

    Something is missing

    I loved reading all the answers to this timely and needed conversation.  In all your lists of things you all do and want to do, there is something missing. Time for yourself to recreate. That is missing from all of your lists.  That was never on my list either.  I was a lead teacher, charter founder of a teacher powered school, author, curriculum designer and a parent all at the same time.  I also started and run a farm at my home. I am crazy right?  Yes a little and I loved every minute of it and would probably do it again.

    Just a note from a lady about to turn 65, looking back on it.  I wanted it all, just like so many of you dedicated teacher leaders.  To me being a squished grape is so much more important than becoming a raisin.       (One of the challenges of retirement.)  I drove myself to do better each year, while I was doing everything else.  I did it to, but at a very high cost ultimately.  After 30 years of the driving pace, my health collapsed from sheer exhaustion.  I never listened to my own body and she was not happy with me.  My heart gave out from all the giving, from me not paying enough attention to my own center of gravity. I had to be removed from the classroom in an ambulance. I was forced into retirement years before I was ready. So my friends, when you think of balance and priority, where are you in that list?  Where is your mental health, your physical health? After 5 years of recovery, I am now able to step back in and work in the classroom again part time. I am recreated, but oh so much more wise about one thing that matters more than most things, my health. If you lose it, you lose many of the things that motivate you now.

    Just a note about kids.  My kids paid the price many times of an absentee mom.  It was a constant balancing act which I didn’t always keep. But now that they are grown, I am admired for my drive to create a good school for them, and for every child around me.  They think I was amazing.

    The thing of it is though, just remember that the enemy of the best is the good.  There are always so many good things to do.  Know when to say it will be ok if I go home now and get some sleep and something to eat.  Take a day, when you need it and sometimes you just have to say no.  Blessings to all of you for what you do.

  • JustinMinkel

    Bless you, Alysia.

    Such wise words, Alysia.The contradiction is that we can burn it out precisely because we love teaching, the kids, and teacher leadership so much.

    A miserable parallel:

    I haven’t been able to run for a long time now. I love running. Even if it made you fat and lazy, I would do it.

    But I ran too much, too far, too fast for what my left ankle could handle. I should have stopped completely for a few months, and if I had, I’d go on a run this lovely rainy April evening.

    But I kept going, cut back on distance and speed but not enough, and here I am going out of my mind each time I see a sign for a 5K or a grinning runner pounding the pavement, because it still hasn’t healed.

    There are two dimensions to your reminder to rest–for many of us who are self-propelled by excitement, we need to say no sometimes to even exciting opportunities and listen to our bodies, spirits, and each beloved member of our family.

    The other, policy dimension of this is that are many teachers–single parents in particular–who don’t have the option to take a break and may need a 2nd job to make enough money, while many policies keep piling into teachers’ workload while cutting simple things like prep periods (described my an employee of our state department of ed recently as a “luxury.”)

    Still, for most members of this community, we could “lean back” a bit and remind ourselves that curling up on the couch with a blanket, a bowl of buttered popcorn, and an iPad with Netflix ready to go isn’t just OK, but necessary once in awhile.