Taking on New Ideas and Projects vs. Nurturing the Ones We Have (and Ourselves)

One of the things that I love about being a teacher are the endings and beginnings.

Where else could I have a complete life cycle of experiences and then get the chance to do it again, but maybe even better?

At this time of year as I wrap up projects and close out sets of responsibilities, as I look backward and forward, I wonder.


Thursday night was an award banquet for the Connecticut Reading Association (CRA). I’d never been before. But this year, as a grant recipient, I was invited to attend with a guest. I invited my colleague, Kristyn, who took on the grant project with me. (Huge and heartfelt thanks to Kristyn for sharing this crazy journey!)

As we chatted over dinner, we talked about the project (and others we’ve been working on together) and what we’re each thinking for next year. We thought about what worked well and what could work better.

One important thing I heard in the conversation was that Kristyn can’t take on anything new next year. She’s enjoyed these projects and cares about them, but she has other big things in motion with our school library.

It was an important conversation, and a good reminder.

I’m an ideas person. Sometimes I bubble and spark with ideas that need to find a way out. Ideas that twitch until I give them a try. It can be simple like rearranging furniture…or more of a schoolwide initiative. While the ideas begin with me, I’m eager to share. That’s how Kristyn came aboard for the Reading Ambassadors and the Real Writers Publishing Company. But once the ideas come alive, they aren’t really mine, they’re ours. A little like children. We co-parent and somehow they take on a life of their own.

But sometimes the plate feels very full.

I feel it. Not only for myself, but for the teachers around me who nurture those sparks of ideas. And family members, too.

That conversation was an important reminder to pause and reflect. Just because we could do a thing doesn’t mean we must do a thing. What brings us joy? What has to get done? How much do we have in our tanks? And is this project one that will empty our tank or leave it fuller?

Those of us reading this, may be the kind of teachers who put our whole heart and all of our energy into doing it in the most amazing way we can every day. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s OK for us to do these amazing things and not all the amazing things that could exist in the universe. Maybe someday we’ll do still more great things. But sometimes we need to recognize when to keep some capacity in reserve.

And for me it’s a reminder not just to check on my own fuel gauge, but also the gauges of those around me. I don’t want to see someone stuck on the side of the road because I asked them to drive farther than they had fuel to go.

It strikes me that this is important as a teacher myself, as a coach, a wife, and a mom.

So let’s celebrate what has been wonderful, especially those things that also fueled our passion and will. Let’s capture the sparks we find like lightning bugs and hold them to flicker brightly in a jar until we’re ready to release them on the world (maybe just in a notebook or Twitter feed somewhere). And let’s check to see where our fuel gauges are before we commit to new and fabulous things for next year. Then let’s refuel in whatever way we fill our tanks. For me, it will be reading, writing, and travel.

A fresh start awaits.

4 thoughts on “Taking on New Ideas and Projects vs. Nurturing the Ones We Have (and Ourselves)

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