Teachers, We Need to Scrap Perfection And Go for Good
There’s something about me that you may not know–I am an extremely high strung introvert.
I often come across as laid back, but that’s only if you don’t know me. If you walk into my classroom on a given day, I am calm and smiling, and my desk looks like Einstein’s (that would be fine if I had his brains, but sadly, I’m just a major slob).
So when I have a day like today, I go home feeling off. I second guess myself. My mind spins thinking of ways I could have done better.
Here was my day:
I overslept and rushed out the door practically dragging my son behind me. We pulled into his school drive up line exactly one minute late, but I dropped him off anyway as the very kind teacher supervising waved me on.
I got to work, wanting to sit at my desk, drink my coffee, check my email, and not talk to ANYONE. Instead, I was pulled in five hundred different directions from the word “go.” A student needed this, a parent needed that, and I realized with a sickening pit in my stomach that I had forgotten about one of a thousand administrative deadlines.
Okay, all I wanted was to be left alone, but my lessons were actually ready to go. That’s something. We were starting my favorite time period in world history with my most favorite lesson ever. Yes, I had to be completely “on” for that lesson. No, I didn’t feel like being “on.” But I’m 18 years in. I’ve faked it hundreds of times. I chose this career. I love it. I know it can be downright painful for introverts at times, but I was ready to go.
Then the bell rang.
After first period, I stood in the hallway staring blankly at my work best friend. Things seemed to be going well for her, and all I could do was ask, “Is there a full moon?”
“Nope,” she said. “That was earlier this month.”
It just got worse as the day progressed.
My favorite lesson was falling flat. My students were off task and completely distracted (dare I say rude?). They were so uninterested that I was taking it personally.
On my planning period, I started searching frantically for ways to change up my lesson. The students obviously didn’t care. I needed to do better.
We have the internet now. We have Teachers Pay Teachers. I was sure I could find something that would connect with them.
But in the middle of my frantic search, a long known yet too often forgotten teacher truth occurred to me:
I have tasks I need to do (and the list is a mile long). I have already planned. If the students aren’t responding, maybe, just maybe, it’s not my fault.
One of my colleagues once told me, “Kids change every four years or so. Beware of anyone who has never been in the classroom or who hasn’t been in the classroom in four years bearing advice.”
And, oh my, they have changed so much in four short years. We are competing with social media and notions that students are consumers who should be constantly entertained.
I love to entertain, but sometimes, it’s necessary just to suck it up and work (I had to do that today). Boredom is not the end of the world (contrary to popular belief).
Teaching, like motherhood, has been placed on a pedestal where it does not belong. I think this is damaging for both the students and for us as teachers.
Don’t get me wrong–when I stop working to make my classroom engaging, I will retire. But every day can’t be a song and dance. And teachers, don’t believe anyone who tells you that it needs to be. We need to look after ourselves and help our students develop the character that comes from not always expecting to be entertained.
Politicians have told us otherwise and so has the general public who believes that teachers are lazy and uncaring (after all, we do get summers off, don’t we? [cue the collective teacher howls of laughter]).
Many of us feel high strung, I think, because we have been put under the microscope by administrators who are compelled to do so by policy makers. We feel like we can’t mess up, like we can’t have a bad day, and in some cases, like we can’t call our students out for behavior that will ultimately be detrimental to their futures.
Don’t get me wrong–we should do our best to teach our students. We should constantly learn and develop our professional knowledge. I even love gamifying my classroom (it’s so much FUN and it builds community–that doesn’t mean YOU have to do it, though).
But in the words of the media specialist at my school, “Calm down. We’re not curing cancer here.”
Truer words were never said.
We need to remember the joy of the job. We need to give ourselves permission to try and fail. And fail I did today.
As we embark on a year of uncertainty, we must consider equity and distance learning. This post discusses how to make virtual learning more equitable in 3 steps and comes with a downloadable cheat sheet.
Do you feel like you’re teaching in uncertain times? You’re not alone. But there are certain things that will always be certain. Like–your students need you to be there for them. Click through to find out how to do that with Culturally Responsive Teaching in Any Setting.
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