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Cold Water to a Weary Teacher

Opening day of school equals exhaustion. Teachers scurry to be first in line for the copier, custodians hustle to make everything look shiny and new. We make lists, decorate, pile piles, stuff folders. To call an educator weary at this point is a huge understatement. And even worse, we have crazy stress dreams and sleepless nights, so by the first day of school, we’re fighting the urge to drag ourselves around when we should be presenting our best faces.

Weariness is, by definition, beyond tired. It’s physical more than a feeling, emotional more than aching bones and sore feet, and it’s a kind of tired that seems to promise no relief.

But sometimes, when I’m feeling especially weary, I chide myself. First world problems, right? At least I don’t have to walk with my family across rough terrain, facing the possibility of encountering robbers or other rogue characters like they did in Bible days. It’s a good reminder that weariness has been around since the beginning of time.

What did people in Bible times do? Well, archaeologists have discovered ancient energy drinks and such, and caffeine is found naturally in many plants, so I’m sure they had their version of a daily drink that served as a pick-me-up.

Scripture is full of medical remedies. Kyle Butt from Apologetics Press has written a fascinating article  detailing some of the old-time cures.

I found this one related to weariness:

Proverbs 25:25 As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.

Hydrotherapy? Cold water is refreshing and renewing. Could it bring strength and energy to combat physical weariness.

While digging through my Anatomy curriculum in preparation for school to restart, I found this article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, proposing that regular exposure to moderate cold water can help chronic fatigue patients. They hypothesize that applying cold stress could reduce seratonin levels, increase the metabolic rate, and a few other things. To test it, they planned to use a treatment of twenty-minute cold showers, twice a day.

I couldn’t find the follow-up to that article, but I did find several others that support hydrotherapy as a viable alternative treatment for many ailments.  And there are a several articles from the National Institute of Health proposing cold showers as possible treatment for depression, mild electroshock for nervous system treatment, etc. I found articles from other sites that claimed cold showers burn calories and assist with weight loss. Wonder if it will cure my teacher fatigue?

So, call me crazy, because I love nothing more than a good, hot shower, but I’m going to try gradually decreasing the temp as I get ready for the first day of school on Monday morning, in the hopes it will combat the sleepless Sunday night that’s sure to come. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Anyone else ever tried cold-water hydrotherapy?

Lessons from the Classroom for YA Writers

Engaged Student

I wish I had started out as a writer first, then a teacher. I think my first few years would have been much better. Writers tend to notice things about people that others don’t.

That said, I’m thankful for the time I’ve spent trying to sell curriculum to resistant young people every day, because I think it makes me a much better writer. Here are five things I’ve learned:

1. Teens respond better to active, engaging material than passive.

In the classroom, this translates to hands-on activities and interactive models, such as the potato gun above–one of my all-time favorite projects from some of my favorite students*. In writing, this means drawing them into the action and letting them experience it as the character. They don’t want to just stand by and let you tell them a story. They want to think, feel, taste, smell, touch, fear, rejoice, and be.

2. Teens thrive on relationships.

They want to have them, hear about them, talk about them, dissect them–it’s a challenge sometimes as a teacher to get them to stop thinking about relationships long enough to teach them something. You might think I’m only talking about romantic relationships, but it’s more than that. They thrive on building strong relationships with the adults in their lives, even the elderly. They are interested in watching how two teachers interact with each other, or how a mother interacts with her baby.

That’s why I feel like it’s important to consider the relationship dynamic between ALL characters, not just the main ones, and adding in a few details to show appropriate behaviors between people. Maybe someone holds the door open and someone else thanks them. Perhaps an older couple is walking by in front of them, holding hands. Sadly, a lot of kids do not have good role models to imitate. In Christian fiction, especially, we need to keep that in mind.

3. Teens are smarter about life than we think.

I’ve critiqued a lot of aspiring YA writers, and one of my pet peeves is how they sometimes try to explain every little thing. It’s like they think teen readers won’t know the meaning of words or understand the history behind an event. Believe it or not, teens are usually pretty up-to-date on current events and fairly knowlegeable about history. After all, they get three years to study it in high school. I’ve had some great intellectual discussions with students about surprising topics over the years.

They also have experienced more than we might believe–pain, loss, joy. In fact, many of them could teach us a few things about coping.

We have to be careful to not make characters too naive. In a recent discussion with a group of young readers, we talked about the Princess Diaries and how frustrated they were with Anne Hathaway’s character being inept at so many things. While most of them liked the movie, they didn’t find her character relatable. Their average/awkward is a lot different from the way Princess Mia was painted.

If we’re not careful, we could write characters that might come across as an insult to today’s savvy teen readers.

4. Teens have short attention spans. 

It’s been my experience that teens lose focus after about 10-15 minutes. In my classroom, I have to find creative ways to throw in hooks every so often to pull them back in. And honestly, I think that’s true for a lot of adults, too. I’ve seen a lot of students take books back to the library before finishing them. Instead of being a story they couldn’t put down, it was something easily dismissed. At the very least, a writer should put a hook at the end of every chapter.  You’re not going to keep them turning pages with a bunch of info dumps, either. They’ll just flip through and skip pages to look for the next action scene.

5. Teens are brutally honest. 

One thing I love about working with high school students is that you never have to worry about what they’re thinking. If they love an assignment, they’ll tell you. If they hate it, you’ll know. So, hard as it may be to handle their blunt feedback, if you’re going to write YA, you might consider having a couple of teens read your story before submitting, and REALLY listen to their advice.

*Photo used with permission.