Sunday, May 10, 2015

Giving My All, All the Time

On Friday, a student turned to me and exclaimed, "Mrs. Manahan, you're the only person I know who 'goes hard' all the time!". I had just turned on the Google Education on Air Conference to watch during my lunch and planning period, which, thanks to a crazy testing schedule, were miraculously together and comprised two hours of my day. The plan was to watch, add to the conversation on Twitter, and maybe get a little grading done. This student was incredulous that I would work so hard when I had this leisurely schedule, and he continued to ask me why I always worked hard and encouraged other to do the same.

That made me wonder, what does make some people give their all while others feel free to take a more "scenic" route? I found this TedBlog by Jessica Gross that examines 7 studies and their findings on our motivation to work hard, and I completely agree. I am motivated to work hard because I see the tangible results of my effort every day in the growth and learning of my students; as they progress throughout the year, I always feel I am on a whirlwind journey with them to improve their understanding and explore new ideas with them. Even on the worst days, I know I am making progress with at least one of them. Since I can see and track this progress, I know I'm going in the right direction. I also know that the work I am doing is helping someone, whether it is the students in my classroom or the teachers I connect with, who are in turn helping students in their classrooms. I am driven to work harder because the whole goal is to improve someone else's life, which in turn is improving my own! A cycle of motivation and improvement!

I am the type of person who at least tries my best to go "all in" on every project or assignment, a character trait that is both exhilarating and terrifying. On one hand, I honestly have the drive to see a project through to the end, to check up on it, to modify it if necessary--but I always have a plan.  In fact, I always have several plans. I once received an email from an administrator with no less than 6 alternate schedules for testing in case of different weather situations on different days of testing (after that he listed a final plan in case of a zombie apocalypse!), and I could sympathize! Even though I generally have several plans in mind, the worst (or best?) is when I come up with a new alternate plan while things are happening! But, on the other hand, I can drive myself, and the people around me, crazy because my brain is always "on." And I can easily wear myself down making plans for all the ideas in my head, and always trying to improve upon them.
Sometimes the swing set is the most important thing

The only thing that can truly make me pause or slow down is my children. My boys mean the world to me, and if I find I am not truly present with them, I try to shut off all distractions and live in the moment. I don't want to miss these moments, for I know I'll never get them back. We spend time singing, dancing, talking, and coloring while I cook dinner, and if I need to order take-out because the swing set or a bike ride was more important than so be it! In the whirlwind of the school year's end and my search for a possible new job in school administration next year, I'm glad I have my boys to make me pause; that's probably the only thing truly helping me keep my sanity!

Our Google Education On Air Conference Party

Back to that student, he might not understand, but he's seeing an adult modeling continuous effort, improvement, and learning. In fact, since he's my aide, he watched much of the Google Education On Air Conference with me, and he enjoyed it! He might not understand right now why I am the way I am, but I hope he, all my students, and especially my boys grow up to find a vocation they love as much as I love education! Then, they will understand why I give my all, all the time!

What drives you to work hard, and what helps you to pause or slow down? I'd love to hear your thoughts!