Ok… so let me just start by saying, I am an educator and I have a never-ending amount of respect for the teaching profession and the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into every day you step foot in your classroom.
Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and above all, under-appreciated. When our students fail, it’s our fault. When they succeed, it’s their success. And we are expected to not only keep 20 to 30 kids engaged and at bay for 6 hours a day, but also to have them leave our classrooms with more knowledge than they had when they walked in.
The best part about all of this is that we need to accomplish this monumental task with very little time and inadequate resources.
If you ask any teacher what their biggest complaints are, I am willing to bet they would include a few, if not all, of the following:
- NEVER enough time!
- Lack of parent involvement.
- No accountability for students.
- Standardized tests are ridiculous.
- Too much paperwork.
- Too many evaluations.
- Not enough resources
- Limited technology.
- Too many students in a room at once.
- Lack of student motivation or effort.
Like many educators, I have had all these thoughts (sometimes all of them in the same day!). But what is important is how we react to them. We can continue to gripe, whine, and have parking lot conversations with our colleagues. But other than a temporary stress relief, what good does any of that actually do, if no change comes from it?
I am not innocent here.
I have done my fair share of all of these things. But recently I made a shift that has transformed my outlook and the way I see my instruction. Now, I am much more positive.
Benjamin Franklin once said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. While I whole heartedly feel that students can be very unpredictable and sometimes impossible, and state agencies and administrators can sometimes be mind numbing, illogical, and ridiculous, those things are out of your control (yeah, you can vote…but whatever). But, if you can’t control something, then the things you can control become that much more important.
That is the shift that I have made.
I have tried to focus not on the things I can’t control, but on those that I can.
A mentor of mine once told me something very powerful:
“You may not be able to control everything, but within the four walls of your classroom, you can control almost anything.“
This statement has stuck with me throughout my career and is something I focus on when I feel a loss of control. If students are acting out I can modify or change my routines, change my entrance or exit procedures, and maybe even re-arrange desks. If my students are underperforming I can modify my instruction, differentiate more, or search for some new, more engaging lessons I haven’t tried. If my administrators are hounding me about evaluations I can create organizational and instructional systems that fit their preferences better, so I don’t have to freak out and “make” a lesson to fit the rubric perfectly.
I could go on forever with examples of the things you can control, but I hope my point is clear: There will always be things you can’t control, but if you aren’t willing to reflect and change anything, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. By doing nothing, you have succumb to the system as it is and become a cog in the machine you have verbalized your hatred for so many times. It is only by doing nothing that we accept failure and allow ourselves to “pass the buck”.
The charge is simple: Change something! Never settle. Never be okay with things the way they are. You are an amazing, passionate, and talented educator. You have skills, abilities, and the knowledge to change the lives of your students. But great change has never come from whining.
So SHUT UP, GET TO WORK, and BE THE BEST POSSIBLE VERSION OF YOU! STOP MAKING EXCUSES and START MAKING CHANGES!
A couple big changes, or a hundred small changes, can make a significant impact on you, your career, and how amazing you are at being an educator.
What change will you make today?
How can you positively impact your students tomorrow?
What will you do this week that you haven’t done before?