I've answered this question frequently on this blog, and it's Friday, and the trimester ends next week, and I'm chest-deep in responding to the most recent drafts for all 138 students before their trimester finals are due, and...deep breaths. This is why I meditate.
Simply put, since I can never repeat myself enough, the most important learning from my career has been the research I conducted on responding to student writers. Too many of us English people think that "response" means grading and comments and marking things up with a pen. It doesn't. Those things are proven to be ineffective, by pretty much every reputable resource you look at. So going away from the typical English teacher-as-editor role has been the most inspiring thing for me, in addition to being the most beneficial for my students.
Kids need more conversations about their writing, so I dedicate more time before and after school (and during class, and during my planning period) to individual writing conferences. They need more questions about their writing instead of directives, so my comments now ask rather than tell. They need more practice with writing than any teacher could possibly grade, so not everything is turned in, and that doesn't make it any less important. They need more comments from teachers during the process instead of after the product is done, so I'm making comments and giving feedback now, before they officially turn them in at the end of the trimester. It will save time later when I'm grading since they already know issues now.
It's inspiring when you completely change course from doing what you thought was the right way to do something, to what you now know is right. It's not easy; learning rarely is, and making change based on new learning is even more difficult. But when you're inspired by learning, it makes you want to inspire others to learn, too.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.