Sometimes You Got It and Sometimes You Don’t

I am a Cubs fan.  My mother spent much of her life struggling with Multiple Sclerosis and it impacted her ability to do a lot of things.  One of the things she always loved though was to watch the Chicago Cubs.  Well, she didn’t always love it.  To be honest, she cussed a lot about the Cubs.  She was a relatively gentle lady, but when the Cubs were on a losing streak (which was often) she would cuss at the TV, she would cuss at anyone in the room, she would just flat out cuss.  I guess that’s what made me a Cubs fan.  I liked watching my Mom get worked up about a game and a team.  As a Cubs fan I know a lot about slumps.  So, I know a good teaching slump when I see one and I’m in one.  It’s a doozy.

There are lots of reasons for my slump.  The recent passing of my father, my attention on some of my new responsibilities in my building and catching this flu thing that is going around.  But, that doesn’t make it OK with me and it’s got me frustrated.  I have a very talented student teacher who is watching me go through this slump and that just adds to my angst.  I wish I was showing off my best teaching for her.  All I can do at this point is to be honest with her and with my students.  Various collaborative groups I work with have been using the word vulnerable a lot this year.  It’s a good word.  I am finding myself having to be very vulnerable right now.  I wish I could say that I am comfortable being vulnerable, but I can’t quite say that.  I am learning to accept my vulnerabilities and work to improve on them; slowly but surely.

So, what do you when you’re in a slump?  Usually I just come at each day with more energy and more passion, but that’s eluding me at the moment.  I’m trying to plan a little better and be a little bit more meticulous about the things that I am able to control.  That helps, but it isn’t pulling me out of the slump just yet.  I really am a little stuck at the moment.  In previous posts I have talked about how much less sure of myself I am now at 48 years old than I was 10 years ago.  The more I learn, the less I am sure of.  I have had the pleasure of watching lots of great teachers in the last few months and it has made me more thoughtful and more reflective for sure, but it also makes me a little jealous and a little insecure.  I really am trying to use the things I see in my colleagues and use them to make my classroom a better place to learn.  It works some days and other days not so much.

I write this to share with my young colleagues that the learning never stops.  There won’t be a point in your career where it becomes easy (at least it hasn’t happened to me).  I hope everyone knows that it’s OK to struggle.  The intersection of work, family, friends and relationships can be a challenge; especially when you are faced with life changing events.  But, you keep swimming.  To my veteran colleagues I write all of this to say how much I admire your dedication.  We’ve all seen hard days and yet we continue to dedicate ourselves to our work.   What we do is important and it doesn’t stop when life gets hard.

I’ll get through the slump. I always do.  Being self aware is a curse sometimes, but hopefully in the end it is a gift.  I am hopeful that my self awareness will lead me to brighter days.  In the meantime I’m going to push ahead and be the best I can.  That’s what I ask of my students and I’m never disappointed when they do that for me.  I’ll do it for them.  As for the Cubs, I am hopeful that they will give me a reason to smile this spring.  Somewhere my Mom is waiting eagerly to say something nice about them instead of cussing up a storm.

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7 Comments

  1. my sure fire slump-beater is Service. Usually my slumps are the result of inward-focus, so the best way to break that pattern, I’ll buy groceries and sign up to provide a meal at the Churches United Shelter, or some such thing. My spirits are lifted along with others’.

  2. PK – your blog is totally you, a man with passion and pride. Your thoughts and feelings were very similar to mine a few years ago. I empathize with you! You run a first class program, marching bands that do it right, keeping it fun and educational for kids. Concert Bands that are among the best in our state year to year and Jazz Bands that find a balance in learning and qualifying for IJC. I offer this….lean on friends and family, we all support you! Lastly, I laugh when I say, become a Cardinals fan, there is little light at the end of the Cubby tunnel!
    Be well, my friend!
    C2

  3. Pat, you may call it a slump, but I’m suspecting you are still dealing with grief and your Father’s recent death. Grief affects people differently, and perhaps this slump is really a form of grief. Hang in there, things will improve, but grief doesn’t just “go away”, you will be living with it in some form or another the rest of your life. May God lift you up and give you comfort and encouragement at this difficult time in your life. Praying for you.

  4. I really enjoy your blog, Pat. You and I are about the same age and I love to see your thoughts as they mirror my own. There is a Chinese proverb that says “Comparison is the thief of joy.” You’ve seen some great educators work and you admire them. I’ll bet that others say that about you.
    I don’t know if it’s like this for you, but I’ve found that in 26 years, my best teaching has been in the slump years that felt the least productive. Those are the years of bitter tears, slow gains, little motivation and seemingly little progress. Yet, those are the years that my teaching is needed more than ever. I had one such slump about 4 years ago, and I won’t lie, the days were not fun. However, it doesn’t stay that way (nothing ever does) and better days do come along. And, looking back, I find that I was effective. It just didn’t feel like it at the time. Good years don’t always feel good.
    Coupled with this, is the time of year. I call this the “Wednesday of the School Year.” It’s Winter, the holidays are over, and Spring seems like it’s a million miles away. The days are short, and the nights long and cold. It’s not fun to go to work this time of year.
    What do I do to break out of a slump? Will Rogers once said, “The best way out of a tough situation is to go through it.” I usually ride it out or shift my focus to the good things I know I’ve done. I focus on the positive. Good times never last, but neither do the slumps. Sometimes a slump is a good time to start a new project and re-focus your mind. Perhaps a new ensemble, or a new style. Perhaps a new hobby outside of school too. In my world, I’m 1/2 time band and 1/2 time IT so if it’s bad in one end of the building, its not usually bad somewhere else, so a change of focus does help.
    Anyway, I enjoy your blog Pat. We’ve never met in person, but your experiences and thoughts have had a positive effect on me and I want you to know that. Keep on keeping on!

  5. I there, Patrick! You don’t know me but I am an Aunt to Ryan Meyer. That’s how I happened to get into your blog. I read this one and the one in which you wrote the second obituary for your dad. I like you. I appreciate the fact that you know yourself pretty well and that you can honestly share where you are with others. I congratulate you on that and encourage you to continue being the great son you are. Don and Colette are both Empowering you to continue being the man, the son they both are proud of.
    I’m older than you, in fact I’m presently 60. My husband and I live in Texas but in 2008 we went back to Iowa to care for my parents who were elderly and in need of care if they were going to be able to stay in their own home. In Nov. of 2009 we had to put my Dad in a nursing home. He was more than a man about it….he had always found it hard to even go into a nursing home…yet, he accepted it and never made Mother or any of his nine adult children feel bad or guilty for his being there. July 9, 2010, my brother, Mike, who was in perfect health, died suddenly while enjoying time at the lakes with his wife and her family. He died suddenly of anafalactic shock from a bee sting on his big toe. S H O C K! Dad died April 11, 2011 and had made it to his 90th birthday. Another brother, Barney, died of lung cancer in August of 2011 and a niece and God-daughter of mine died a month later after a lengthy illness that had kept her home bound for several years. It hit her during college and after graduation she was able to work only a short time as a journalist when her boss allowed her to work out of her home. She never married due to her illness and when she could no longer keep up with her work she became a blogger and had followers all over the world. They have requested a book be written of her from her blogs and that book will come out next year. Mother has always been a faith filled woman and yet all the loss was difficult for all of us. My husband and I moved in with her after I spent about two weeks with her in the hospital in January of 2013. Mother died at 91 yrs young on November 25, 2013.
    I appreciate your “slump” experience. I hope you can see it not as a negative yet rather as a time you are blessed with to love and grieve the loss of a man that gave you life….that gave many other people life and new beginnings by believing in their dreams…a man. Who knew what is most precious in life…people…and thus he stepped out of his comfort zone, trusted in them and allowed many, I bet, to aspire to their hearts desires. What a man! Take the time you need to come to the realization that your Dad and Mom are still instrumental in helping you and so many others. Their life has not ended. It has changed. St. Francis de Sales says it well: “Make yourself familiar with the Angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you.”
    We need to hold sacred what our loved ones held sacred and they will intercede for us and empower us along life’s journey. They are united with us. Do you have the faith to allow them to continue journeying with you in spirit?
    I’m thinking of and praying for you and you wife. God speed!

  6. Hi Pat,
    My mom was diagnosed with cancer exactly a year ago and passed away in July. Leah was student teaching with me during the whole diagnosis and bad news. I hope she was able to see how wonderful the teaching community supports each other. I was in a terrible slump this fall and didn’t realize what it was at the time. I am coming out of it now with more good days than bad. Losing a parent who became your friend is a huge blow. Give yourself some time and I know your student teacher will learn more from you than how to wave a baton

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