What a blessing it is to receive encouragement and validation from those you work for. Yesterday my superintendent said four words that were like medicine to me.
“You’ve grown so much.”
That must be why I felt so stretched out of shape most of the time! I’m positive my brain has stretch marks. This year has been the toughest one yet with higher demands on my time, emotions, and creativity.
There were brief moments when I felt completely used up and ineffective. At the time these moments felt like failure, but looking back I see they were just part of a steep climb to a new level of growth and professionalism.
How did my fears and frustration turn into success and growth? It’s important to reflect on these things because next year will bring many more fears and frustrations (aka opportunities for growth).
I collaborated and sought support constantly – sometimes frantically. I ran across the hallway to brainstorm with another teacher. This gave me fresh ideas to try in the classroom. Sometimes something just wasn’t working. A fresh perspective helped me identify what wasn’t working and come up with some new approaches.
Teaching is a constantly changing juggling act. When something isn’t working we need to toss it out while bringing in something better. It helps to have a collaboration partner to toss ideas around.
I sought constructive criticism. Several times this year, my mentor teacher (now retired) observed my teaching and gave me feedback. This calmed many of my fears as she told me what WAS working and gave me some ideas to try on what wasn’t working. Sometimes I can’t see how well things are working when my head is down in the crowd of kids.
Identifying what is working is as important as identifying what isn’t working. Otherwise we might make an “improvement” that diminishes effectiveness in another area.
I took some time to see my students as God’s little people. Like every other classroom, mine is full of little human beings with unique backgrounds and needs. And like every other dedicated teacher, I truly love my students. I think about them day and night, each weekend, all summer… I pray for them. I ask God to help them grow into confident students who live out their natural strengths and develop their talents to help each other and their community. They are far more to me than a name and row of percentages in a grade book. They mean more to me than any uninterrupted lesson, 15 minute break, or straight lunch line. And I LOVE a straight line!
Sometimes we have to step back from our agendas to address emotional and physical needs before we can effectively address academic needs. Each child comes to us with a whole set of needs; we try to send them into the future as “whole” people.
I whined a little and tried to get over myself. I’ve said several times, “This teaching gig is all consuming!” Yep! No wonder so many end up leaving this career. The demands are high. Many of them are necessary (I’m still not convinced of a few, but that could change with time). When my “to do” list outnumbered the hours on my day planner, I stressed and worked every extra moment to maintain control. When I wanted to feel sorry for myself it helped to know that each of my colleagues had a similar list.
There is SO much more to being a teacher than the world sees. The demands of teaching are huge! But why wouldn’t they be? We’re in the business of building lives that will shape community, society, and government.