FOUR STEPS TO FINISHING STRONG
Spring is my favorite time of year. Sunshine, sprouting plants, and vibrant colors give me a renewed sense of energy. Given our intense winter this year, spring will be even sweeter. However, it’s this very time of year when most educators are just hanging on! The time between the Christmas holiday and spring break can be a bit long for many. Stress begins to mount as testing looms ahead, and we realize how little time is left to make sure our students are prepared for the upcoming assessment or the next grade level. We all need a break!
Spring break is a time for us all to take a step back, rest, enjoy our families, and possibly tackle some long overdue tasks. However you choose to spend your spring break, I would encourage you to take a moment to get alone and prepare your heart and mind for your return to school. Consider these four steps to finishing strong!
STEP 1: REFLECT ON ALL OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Think back to the first of the year. Get specific. How were your students behaving? What did they remember from the previous year? What were their incoming test scores? Who was struggling? Who seemed unreachable? You get the idea. Add your own questions here.
Now, think about the progress that has been made this school year. Celebrate the big and small victories. Sometimes we have a tendency to only focus on what needs to done. While this is important, it is also critical to take a step back and reflect on our students’ growth. Make yourself do this! Write it down. Consider the possibilities below to get yourself thinking about progress.
Where we started: The students would not even look at each other or speak to a partner.
Where we are now: Most of my students will share with a partner and often give a compliment.
Where we started: Students were constantly absent or tardy. It was hard to manage.
Where we are now: Absenteeism is low and students are more frequently on time.
Remembering how far you and your students have come will give you confidence and vitality to finish strong.
STEP 2: LET GO OF PAST SHORTCOMINGS
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14
We all make mistakes. We all sin. We all can look back on decisions we have made and wish we would have done things differently. This is simply part of the human condition. Satan wants us to wallow in our failures. If he can keep us living in a state of regret, he can steal our joy and prevent us from moving forward and fulfilling our calling. Don’t let him do this to you! Repent, ask for forgiveness, and speak the verses below out loud!
The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
Psalm 103: 8-12
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead will enable you to finish strong!
STEP 3: INVEST IN YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY
I know time is such a precious commodity. The life of an educator is not only full of teaching but also hours of planning, attending meetings, communicating with parents, and collaborating with colleagues. This is just our professional life!
Juggling the demands of our personal lives is also important and requires time out of our already very busy days. Investing in ourselves spiritually can seem almost impossible. While Sundays are often times for us to attend church and rejuvenate for the week, I am here to tell you that one day a week is not enough. Managing the demands of our careers and our families can be a daunting and frustrating task if we are not equipping ourselves spiritually. We simply must make our spiritual growth a priority.
I’m not sure what this will look like for you, but I would encourage you to try and find 30 minutes somewhere in your day just for you and God. For me, it has to be early in the morning; otherwise, it may not happen. Maybe for you it is over lunch or before you go to bed. It doesn’t matter when. Just find the time.
How we spend our time with God may vary a bit, but I do believe the time should involve prayer and Bible reading. I also like to write down my thoughts. You might start with a book of the Bible or purchase a Bible study. They key is to get alone with God and His Word and let his Holy Spirit guide your thoughts. You will be amazed at how God will use this time to strengthen you, provide clarity to your questions, and guide you in your decision making. James 4:8 reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
To finish strong, we must invest in our spiritual growth!
STEP 4: LET GO AND LET GOD
I realize this may sound a bit cliché’, but it is so TRUE! Eventually we have to come to a point where we let go of the things we cannot control and trust God to take care of the details of our lives. For those of us who are control freaks, this can be tough.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we take ourselves out of the equation. We still must work hard and do our best. We are reminded in Colossians 3 that whatever we do, we are to do our work heartily as for the Lord. We are not to be slackers. However, there comes a time when after doing our best, we have to lay everything at the feet of Jesus and trust God’s sovereignty.
I believe doing this frees us from unneeded stress in our lives. One of my favorite verses to claim when I am struggling in this area is Philippians 4:6-7.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Let’s finish strong! Take time to reflect on your accomplishments, let go of past shortcomings, invest in yourself spiritually, and let God take care of the rest.
Enjoy your spring break!