- It can be challenging not to compare yourself to other educators, but remember that you are already enough.
- You are already enough because you work hard on relationships with students, work to become a better version of yourself each day, and strive to create engaging lessons.
Educational rock stars. We all know them. They have Pinterest-perfect classrooms. You can find their names in conference pamphlets or on the spines of books. They’ve created methods and activities for engaging students in all disciplines. They have thousands of followers on Twitter and update their blogs daily. Everyone knows about the amazing things they’re doing with their students. And they are way better at this whole teaching thing than we are, right?
The Teacher Down the Hall
It’s hard in education not to compare yourself to the educational rock stars, those teachers with cult-like followings on social media. You consume their books, thinking how nothing you’ve done would ever be as impressive to read about. You squeeze your way into their packed conference sessions because like everyone else, you want a moment to bask in their brilliance.
We do this with the rock stars in our own buildings.
You probably know this feeling: there’s excited talk—from students, parents, administrators, colleagues—about something amazing happening in your school. The more chatter you hear about the lesson or the topic, the more you realize it’s not your classroom. You know whose class it is without ever hearing the teacher’s name. It’s the class down the hall, the one that you so desperately want to be like.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it devalues your students. We want our students to succeed, to be engaged, and to grow. We hope those things happen with us, but when we bemoan how our class or our lesson isn’t enough, we admit that we aren’t giving our students our best, even if we feel we are.I am enough, and you are too. You always were enough. You will continue to be enough. And because you are enough, your students are lucky to have YOU as their teacher. Click To Tweet
In our classroom, we would never compare the student who struggles with fractions with the student who nails them and say, “Well, the struggling student just isn’t as good.”
We know that students have different strengths. We recognize and support those while encouraging growth in other areas. Sure, fractions might be a student’s weak spot, but we don’t judge them on a single skill or measure. Yet when we compare our best to someone else’s, we do to ourselves what we would never do to students.
My class might not be every student’s favorite, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to give every student my best. Some days that works out better than others. On days where my lesson flops or there are unexpected hiccups, I remember I am doing the best I can. After those lessons, I dust myself off and vow to do better next time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made some of these comparisons worse. The teachers who have been seamlessly integrating technology into their everyday instruction are far outpacing those who used tech on rare occasions and only as a backup. Teachers in student-centered classrooms are finding it easier to provide more student work time and individual support than those who relied on direct instruction.
Pandemic Support: You Are Already Enough
But the pandemic has also highlighted something else, something few of us consciously consider: as a teacher, you are already enough.
What matters most right now is the students. Not what are they learning, but how are they? Are they dealing with the death of a family member? Has the pandemic made their adult’s job more dangerous because, as a food-service worker or nurse or delivery person, they are on the front line? How is their mental health? For students in poverty or who have emotional or learning disabilities or whose grasp of the local language is slim, there is another layer of questions entirely.
Engaging lessons, amazing class décor, a massive following, or professional writings or presentations—none of them will answer those questions. But you can address them. When you put students’ needs at the heart of what you do, you are enough.[scroll down to keep reading]
You ARE Enough
Eventually, the pandemic will end, but you will not stop being enough. What I’ve learned is that while I may never be that educational rock star, I am enough.
Because I work hard on relationships with students, I am enough.
Since I try to be a better version of myself each day and each year, I am enough.
When I plan lessons and activities intended to engage students in their learning, I am enough.
I am enough, and you are too. You always were enough. You will continue to be enough. And because you are enough, your students are lucky to have YOU as their teacher.
About Megan Balduf
Megan Balduf is an English teacher with more than fifteen years’ experience at the middle school level. While being a classroom teacher had always been her dream, her reality allowed her to reach beyond the walls of her classroom. With the encouragement of administrators at her school in Fairfax, VA, Megan has grown through various leadership positions including mentor teacher and English department chair. As a model of lifelong learning, since entering the classroom, Megan has earned an MA in Gifted Education, an MA in English for Language Arts Teachers, and became a National Board Certified Teacher. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, running, and being Mom to her two children.