Teach Like a Coach: Motivating Ourselves for the Second Half

Winter break is one of the best parts of being a teacher. A close second is spring break, Martin Luther King Day, and of course, summer vacation.

But, truth be told, one of the best parts of being a teacher, can also be one of the worst.

Winter break is our halftime. It is our time to retreat to our locker rooms, assess our first half progress, and regroup and recharge for the second half.

Going into winter break is exhilarating. We are overcome with feelings of accomplishment. As winter break begins, teachers in school hallways everywhere share knowing winks, nods, high-fives and jubilant or relieved expressions of “We made it.”

Some of us leapt through the winter break finish line, like well-trained marathon runners. Some of us have been limping for the past month, and barely crawled across. But one way or another, we made it to winter break, our well-earned reward.

We’ve left our demanding roles as hyper-vigilant leaders of highly-structured classrooms, for days without schedules or obligations.

And sometimes, it’s really hard to go back.

Somewhere between Christmas and New Years our once triumphant thoughts of “We made it,” are replaced with, “We’re only half-way” and “We have to go back.”

And we realize, we’re not done. Not even close. It’s only halftime, and not only do we have to go back out there, but WE are the coach.

I attended a college basketball game over winter break. During the game, I was oddly aware of the coach. The way he strolled back and forth on the sideline, shouting orders and watching the players follow his directions with precision.

At every timeout, I watched the team quickly assemble folding chairs and circle the coach. Instantly, he was ready with further instructions, and presumably something motivating to say.

I wondered about the coach. Who motivated him? How did he generate inspiration? Did he feel exhausted at halftime?

I noticed an entire row of men and women sitting behind the players. They were dressed in suits, not uniforms, and I guessed they were the assistant coaches, trainers or doctors. At each time out, this group jumped up and rallied around the players and the coach.

They are the coach’s team. The coach isn’t really doing it alone. He doesn’t go in the locker room alone. He is surrounded by his team and their energy and support motivates him.

Maybe that’s the bad part of winter break. We’ve been away from our team.

Yes, we’ve had a taste of eating leisurely lunches without watching the clock. We’ve used the bathroom when we needed to, and we’ve relaxed and let down our guard. But, we’ve been with people for whom this might not be a luxury.

The hardest part of teaching is feeling like you’re doing it alone.

None of us truly work alone. We belong to a team. A team who knows. A team who understands. A team who is currently going through the exact same thing.

As winter break ends, teachers in school hallways everywhere will return, and share knowing winks, nods, and high-fives. We made it.

We’ve had a taste of freedom, but we are back. We are recharged and refueled. We are here for each other.

Halftime is over. We have a game to play. Here’s to the second half.

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