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Last weekend I spent quite a bit of time on my knees. I had some stepping stones that were sitting on top of the grass so that we could avoid the mud after a bit of rain. I decided to get a shovel and set them into the ground just a little so they weren’t a trip hazard and looked a little more appealing.
 
When I first started, I had lots of energy and high expectations, thinking that it wouldn’t take too long. It had rained recently so the ground wasn’t hard and dry, and it was my first chore of the day so I wasn’t yet tired. There were 18 stones total, and after the first three I was feeling a bit less excited about my job. The area where I was digging was full of clay soil, so it clumped together and was hard to get level before setting each stone. My gloves were covered in slimy, wet clay, and my knees were killing me even though I had a kneeling cushion. Once I finished the first six, I stopped to count what was left and looked back to see what I had done so far. I set the goal of getting nine stones done before I took a break to do something else.
 
gardening
 
After mowing the lawn (which was really crunching up leaves and blowing them off the driveway), I came back to my original chore. The first thing I did was to admire my previous work and celebrate that I was half finished. I even walked the stones a few times to test them out. My next job was to use what I had already learned from the first half to gather my supplies and energy and finish the job. I’m happy to say my stepping stones are all set, but here’s what I thought of as I surveyed my accomplishment.
 
The calendar may show a new start to the year, but we’ve essentially reached the halfway mark of this school year. Which stones are already set, and what work do we have left to do?
 
Come back refreshed
Just like I took a break halfway through my stone project, most teachers and administrators get a couple of weeks between semesters. If you still have a day or two left, find ways to truly enjoy them and get recharged. If your days are gone, look back on the fun things you got to experience with family and friends. Remind yourself of why we do what we do. Not every day at school will bring a smile to your face, but if you can’t imagine a day of happiness as an educator then it’s time to find another profession.
 
Reflect on accomplishments
It’s a great exercise to spend time with teachers and their students as they think back about how far they’ve come since the first day of school. It might mean putting together a summary of the topics covered so far, looking through student work to see growth, or having a brainstorming session in small groups or as a whole class to rate proficiency on the main topics learned so far. There may be things we’ve learned along the way that will make the spring semester a little easier to tackle.
 
Where’s the finish line?
Look all the way to the end of the school year and work backwards to be sure there is sufficient time for each topic left to cover. Every day is important and should continue to build toward the ultimate goal of students thoroughly understanding the standards set for each course. If there’s a state assessment for your grade level, look now at how you can best prepare students so that it’s a consistent focus rather than a last-minute push. (Look for more information about test prep in upcoming blog posts.)
 
I love my stepping stones, but they are not nearly as important as the pathway our students travel every school year. It’s our job to support teachers as they guide students to success. Our role is sometimes messy, sometimes backbreaking, and sometimes requires us to stop and regroup, but there is no better feeling than seeing proud teachers and students when they reach their goals. Keep encouraging, keep pushing, and keep smiling so that even on the days that the ground is muddy and the stones are wet, the path to success is clear.
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