a girl and her boy

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Making Connections and Break-Throughs

One of the hardest things about teaching is knowing how to let go.

As an educator I really want to “save” all of my students:  help them see the importance of school, improve their grades and classroom performance, and become a better citizen. However, this is not possible. As hard as I try, I can’t reach them all and I can’t make a difference for them all. And learning when to let go and not feel responsible for their failures is difficult.

The last few weeks were hard as far as my schedule goes, but it was also hard in that I was going through a lot of mental and emotional struggle over one class in particular. This one class is of low-achieving seniors who just want to slide by and graduate. Unfortunately, they got me for senior English and I actually expect something of them (how dare I make them *earn* their grade!).

I’ve been unnecessarily beating myself up for their failures and for the obstacles that I have to overcome to educate them and discipline them. My poor friends had to listen to me berate myself for an hour after a lovely dinner over this class. (I’m better, honest!)

And it wasn’t just this class either. I was concerned that my best wasn’t good enough, that I need to be the educator I’ll be in 10 years *now*. I am very hard on myself and impatient. I want the best for my students and I want to be the best teacher I can be, but I haven’t been very good at allowing myself the process of becoming a good teacher. Every mishap, I brood over how the mistake came about and how to fix it. And instead of moving on, I glumly go about my business upset that I made the mistake in the first place.

So all of this mental angst was going on during two of the busiest weeks I’ve had this year.

And I finally made some progress. I woke up this morning thinking, “I’m going to have a good day no matter what. All I need to do is get through the day!” And it helped. And then later on in the day I decided that my best right now is going to be good enough for me. So, after a year in the classroom, I’ve finally given myself the room to breathe and grow without feeling the intense pressure I put on myself.

It feels great. I feel freer and more in control, which ultimately means I’ll be a better educator, friend, and wife.

In closing, I was flipping through my teaching journal (I’m a very reflective educator, I journal every day many times a day about what’s going on) and I came across a quote I copied down:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” (Lao-Tzu)

That’s my new life motto. Do the best I can whenever I can whereever I can and call it good enough.

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2 responses to “Making Connections and Break-Throughs

  1. allison November 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    You could have written that with my seniors in mind as well…we always want to blame ourselves, but think of all the years and years of conditioning (and old school teaching) these kids have had. We’re asking them to do different things….and we all know how receptive most people are to change, even the good kind.

    Stay positive, and keep reminding yourself that you are doing great things. Your teaching will help all of your kids become better readers, writers, and critical thinkers…even the most resistant ones. 🙂

  2. LittleWit November 14, 2008 at 7:39 am

    That’s a great life motto. I am starting to come to that realization with my home. I had a science teacher that came in my sophomore year of high school who was a much tougher teacher than our other science teacher. I went rounds with her and finally gave in and did the work. The funny thing is I got better grades in her class and in the end I have a great deal more respect for her than the other instructor. Maybe at least one of your seniors will come around? 🙂

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