Reflections on a Sleepless Year and Being the Educator Our Students Need

The end of the academic year is quickly approaching, and with that comes the desire to reflect on the past year. Cliché, perhaps, but where did the time go? This past year was full of important moments, stressful situations, and unexpected events— and that was just in my personal life. The birth of a second child, the maturation of a toddler, major home renovations, and career shifts for my spouse filled this year with excitement and, honestly, a lot of stress. Add to that, sleepless nights courtesy of a newborn or a sick toddler, and well, you know. Dragging.

On top of all this, I have this thing called work.  In all honesty, I hate to even call it work, because it is much more a passion than a job. But running on two hours of sleep, fueled by the five Goldfish crackers I found in the back seat, my passion for education could easily fall victim to my passion for caffeine if I let it. I am expected to be an academic leader for 700 young men every day, regardless of the broken dryer, leaking toilet, two-year old with a virus, and yet another sleepless night.

How did I manage that? Sometimes I’m not sure myself. I love looking back on the highlights of our school year like our job-shadow partnership for future physicians, our Third Semester courses that travel the globe, and our new OBIO program that celebrates innovation in the classroom.  This is also a perfect time for us to reflect on the past year to identify the good, the bad, and the truly awesome. Most educators I know do this instinctively each day, but now we can look back with a wider view. What did we accomplish with our students? With our guidance, how much did they grow academically, emotionally, and spiritually in the past nine months? Were we the educators that our students needed us to be?

As I described in a past blog post, “Take the Time to Ask”, our students completed an end-of-the-year survey. I have pored over the responses many times, because I value their honesty and am impressed by their acuity. As I reflect on this past year and begin to plan for the next, I again returned to the survey. This time, I began to recognize a pattern in the feedback that very clearly identified the two qualities our young men saw most often and valued most highly in the best teachers.

Without question, student engagement is an essential part of learning, and together, these two characteristics create the foundation for dynamic, successful, engaging classrooms. Better yet, their insights can help us all to determine whether or not we are, in fact, the educators that our students need us to be.

Tomorrow, the first of the two characteristics essential to student engagement. (HERE)