The myth of the super teacher

August 14, 2012

in rants and reflections

Isn’t it frustrating when teacher planning week drains what little bit of excitement you’ve managed to muster up for the coming school year? You enter the school building, your mind filled with brilliant ideas on how to arrange your classroom and cool new teaching strategies to try. You’re ready to catch up on summer vacation stories with your colleagues, and eager to meet your new group of students. This year is going to better! you tell yourself. I’m going to stay positive! I am going to love my job again!

And then…the meetings start.

Staff meetings

Remember that system for data collection you spent the entire second semester learning last year? Yeah, we’re not doing things that way anymore. Learn a new system! Oh, and your lunch time will be at 10:30 am this year. And here’s a new math curriculum you have to learn before the end of the week. We have to improve our scores! More data! More testing! More accountability! And it all has to happen perfectly starting on day one!

Don’t internalize this pressure, my friends. Be kind to yourself as the new school year starts. The load that a classroom teacher carries is heavy enough on it’s own. Don’t add to it by buying into the myth that you must be a super teacher, performing miracles at every turn, compelling all students to work on or above grade level simply through the sheer amount of energy and time that you expend.

What you do IS miraculous, but it’s not always measurable. And it doesn’t have to be. Getting a student to open up about the hard times he’s having at home. Supporting a child who doesn’t speak English in making new friends. Instilling a love of learning in a student who hates school. Moving your class toward skill mastery in small, uneven steps. You’re working miracles. You might not be recognized for it, but you are.

be kind

Showing up every day and giving your best as you work to meet the diverse needs of every student in your care is enough. You are enough. Your students are enough. Learning is a life long process, and we all get better with time and experience.

I posted the image above on my Facebook page and someone commented that administrators, parents, and legislators need to also be kind to teachers. I agree. But I don’t think you should wait until that happens to give yourself a break. Even if your principal is demanding, your students’ parents are impossible to please, and your district leaders keep piling more responsibility on your plate…stay focused on the kids. Connect with them. Care for them. Show them love.

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice

Don’t let the pressure from every side keep you from remembering why you went into teaching in the first. Focus on making a difference. Your students won’t remember everything you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. They are people, even when the school system treats them like numbers. And you’re a person, too. Dismiss those nagging thoughts that insist you’re not doing enough. Redefine the role of a teacher for yourself.

I want to leave you with a video called “The Myth of the Super Teacher” from my hilarious and wise friend, Roxanna Elden. She teaches high school in Hialeah, Florida, and knows the stress of working in urban schools. I reviewed her wonderful book called See Me After Class! Advice by Teachers For Teachers awhile back and continue to admire her practical, thoughtful, and humorous approach to the realities of teaching. Enjoy the video, and enjoy your first weeks of school.

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Angela was a classroom teacher for 11 years and currently works as an instructional coach and educational consultant based in New York City. She's created a webinar series on pro-active behavior management and has written 3 books for educators. Check out the blog and free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rebecca August 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

What a great video! It is easy to get so discouraged when it is so very difficult to get a teaching job in my town. It feels like you have to be a super teacher to even get a principal to glance at your resume! But I will continue to trust that when I return to teaching (after my husband and I finish our family) that God has the right job at the right place for me! And I can become an intentional, mission-oriented, kid-oriented, loving, challenging teacher I was meant to be, but I DON’T have to be perfect.

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2 Angela Watson August 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm

That’s right, Rebecca–teach intentionally, and don’t worry about perfection. Enjoy your time home with your kids. The same principles apply there. :-)

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3 Christa August 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm

This was such an uplifting read before the new school year. Thanks for your awesome attitude! :)

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4 Angela Watson August 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm

You are welcome, Christa! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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5 Shibahn Landry August 15, 2012 at 12:01 am

The video was awesome! Thanks for getting us started with some humor!

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6 Angela Watson August 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Isn’t Roxanna awesome? Love her!

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7 Elisa Waingort August 15, 2012 at 10:51 am

These two lines resonated with me and, in fact, made me take a deep, cleansing breath! Thank you!
“Don’t internalize this pressure, my friends. Be kind to yourself as the new school year starts.” This should be my mantra for the year.

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8 Angela Watson August 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Hi, Elisa! That’s a fantastic motto. Pressure may come at you from every side, but you don’t have to internalize it and take it to heart.

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9 Yvonne August 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

That was such an incredible encouragement to me today. Thank you. It’s such a relief that I’m not the only one with those same feelings. Phew! Thanks for the positive outlook.

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10 Angela Watson August 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Hi, Yvonne! Nope, it’s not just you! So glad this was encouraging. Have a wonderful school year.

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11 Tammi Pittaro August 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Thank you for sharing Roxanne’s video. Loved her humor and honest humanity. This was great inspiration for the year ahead!

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12 Elizabeth Belgrave August 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Thank you for your continuing encouragement. I love Awakened Change Your Mindset. Even though we’re smaller here in Barbados we share the same language :). Thank you Ms. Elden.God bless and keep you both.

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13 Aymee August 16, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I really enjoyed this article. It helped me gain some clarity and remind myself that others out there in the teaching field are experiencing the same things. With budget cuts and extra large classes and no light at the end of the tunnel it helps to remember we are ultimately doing this for the kids. So they can grow and learn and be the best they can be so we can live in a better world. Haven’t lost my idealism yet. Holding on nine plus years in.

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14 Michelle August 17, 2012 at 5:16 am

Thank you for this post! It put into words what I (and my colleagues) have been feeling. I printed out a copy and brought it as a reminder during some of these beginning of the year meetings you talked about. Also, I shared it with teachers on my team. You helped us A LOT! Thank you. I love your blog!!

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15 Molly August 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I have been setting up my classroom before our 3 teacher “work days” because after looking at the schedule our principal sent, I’ll have about 2 hours to actually set up my room on those days – total. I’m enjoying the calm before our whirlwind of meetings and overwhelming lists of expectations. I’m going to take it all in, but remember to be kind to myself. And this year we have to do a 3 hour team building activity… she told us to dress comfortably. Yikes!

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