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.
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.
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.
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.