Saturday, August 22, 2009

Get off your own back!

Last night I was watching the Ron Clark Story (a movie based on an 'against all odds, I will get you to succeed' kind of teacher) and realized that I was having an actual physical reaction to the scenes in which he was being tested to the zillionth degree by a new classroom full of struggling sixth graders.

Then I started thinking about how scary it is to start off the school year not knowing who your kids are and what they're facing. They say the first days of school are the most crucial and yet they are also the most daunting because, as a teacher, you can't see what's coming. You have to figure it out as you go along.

You will, inevitably make stupid mistakes no matter how long you've been teaching. The trick, I think, is to allow that to happen. I'm not saying that it's a good idea to consciously make stupid mistakes. But it's okay to allow mistakes to be what they are: opportunities for growth. Don't bash yourself over the head with regret and negative self-talk (i.e. I suck! I should have never become a teacher!)

WE ARE NOT NINJAS. Seriously, we're not! We're human beings and all we can do is our best. We still need to eat, sleep, have a family and friends. I used to make the mistake of thinking that dedicating every waking moment from August - June working on or worrying about my classes would result in me doing everything right. It didn't. It almost resulted in me becoming a total burn-out and that wasn't good for anybody.

So, my advice to myself and to any teacher is this: take care of yourself, do your best but make room for imperfection. A teaching guru of mine used to say to me, "Get off your own back. You're doing fine." And I probably always was. There are messages that will come from "up above" that tell you to be perfect, get those scores up. . .you know the ones I'm talking about. Take them with a grain of salt. Their job is to keep us teachers on our toes so that our kids get what they need.

Just do your best, ask for help, and be sure to balance your profession and the other parts of your life in a healthy way.

P.S. You'll know you're out of balance when your face is breaking out, your dog is barking at you, you forget to eat, and you haven't gone out on a Friday night for five months. But maybe that's just me!