Croskey’s Corner: Endurance
In my first year of teaching, I taught social studies with Mrs. Donahue, a woman who was in her last year in the profession. She had been a friend of my Mom’s for 25 years. My first impression of this veteran was that she was a traditional teacher who knew nothing of my revered “New Social Studies.” (Note to rookies: This was in 1972!) Despite my rush to judgment of her, she encouraged my enthusiasm and idealism, rather than choosing a defensive or superior manner. I gradually came to view her as a life-long learner who was always open to an exchange of ideas. Since she communicated with me openly and warmly, I eventually felt comfortable in seeking information and advice from her. This veteran on the verge of retirement became a role model for me, the know-it-all youngster. It wasn’t so much a matter of my adopting her teaching style as it was that I needed to learn as much from this person as I could before she was “gone.” I began to hope that when I was near retirement, I would still be as open to new learning and growth as she was. Memory of her sustained me through my career.
By the time I retired as a school psychologist, I realized that people were looking to me for guidance at times. That was a nice feeling. Yet I realized I was getting some “hallway cred” (as opposed to “street cred”) in school for simply Enduring for 37 years. That brings us to the Character Quality of the Month – Endurance. It is defined as “The inward strength to withstand stress and do my best.” The “I will” statements which accompany Endurance are to :
• not be a “quitter”
• accept both instruction and feedback
• put my whole heart into everything I do
• not let small obstacles deter me from my bigger goals
• recognize progress in all its forms
Endurance comes from two Latin words (as you will likely read in another part of this newsletter!) meaning, roughly, to harden within. Thus, the hardness is not on the outside; it is an inner quality of firm resolve. That seems important to me. If you are young, as I am not, you may feel that talk of Endurance and stress sounds old, or “burned out.” You might justifiably ask, “Why don’t these old guys get excited or get out?” I will grant that you who are young have at least one quality which I do not – stamina. I may be able to complete some of the same feats that you can, but you will undoubtedly be able to do them for a longer time and with more of a sustained strength. I have had to face the fact that I have limits. The Character First! literature chose the camel an a model of Endurance in the Animal Kingdom. This animal can endure thirst, hunger, and extreme temperature while bearing up to 1000 pounds of cargo, over hundreds of miles, for days at a time. The literature emphasizes, though, that the camel knows when it has reached its limits. A camel past its limits, loaded with just a few extra pounds to carry, may refuse to budge or even drop dead. The extra weight has become, literally, the straw which broke the camel’s back. Many days at school, it felt like I was a camel and my work environment was the middle of the Sahara.
So, if your flesh is weak , like mine, or if your stamina gets used up more quickly (see “like mine,” above), we may have to depend on hope to Endure. Think of the veteran educators you know who have Endured with a firm, inner resolve, rather than merely surviving. They know their limits. But they also have enough experience to know when to carry that half a ton – and when to DRAG it. Or when to ask a younger camel to carry it! They still exude hope in their attitudes and actions. Their hope is the fuel which powers their inner strength. Their Endurance may not show on the outside because it IS an inner quality.
One other key to Enduring involves the avoidance of loneliness. The Character First! Bulletins we used to subscribe to informed us that Harriet Tubman, the famed Underground Railway conductor, was often forced to make the journeys to Freedom by herself. She found that her Faith, her vision of freedom, and singing (!) kept her from feeling so alone. This story got me thinking about the different sounds of Endurance. When we have trouble Enduring in school, our tendency may be to whine. Whining can bring others down and it can cause others to pigeonhole us as negative. For, when I hear a cry, I feel compassion, but when I hear a whine, I want to run! Maybe if our whining is “tuned” up a bit, it will end up sounding like a cry for help or hope. Then others may hear our cry rather than our whine, a much easier sound to listen to. They in turn will be more likely to reach out to us in our loneliness. This awareness may even remind us to listen to the whining of others as it really is, a lonely cry.
As your school year ends, you are glad you have Endured, and are probably not ready to consider Enduring another year quite yet. (Wait til June 20th.) But starting in the Fall, consider taking a look around and identifying some veteran whom you think you could learn from by watching. I suspect that your observations will reveal individuals who are not burned out or worn out. Maybe you can assume that your veteran has learned a lot in his or her journey. Figure out what they can teach you about Enduring. You may even learn to sing like they do!