Teacher or whatever, our struggle is real. We’re busy, overextended, tired, sick of the rain (right, Washington!?), and dreaming about downtime that we’re unlikely to create for ourselves. This week, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, I came to the realization that my cynical Irish nature prevents me from being the best teacher and human I can be when the struggle gets old. My frustration is rooted in a system that often doesn’t uphold my values, but it’s also largely due to my attitude and outlook as my frustration with the education system grows.
Below are five of my biggest struggles and why they’re (partially) my fault:
1. Data vs. Heart
I hate data. Seriously, I hate it. If it were up to me, we’d make educational decisions based on what feels right – which, to be fair, has worked well for me so far. My hippie ways are great for connecting with students and coming up with creative ideas, but not so great when it comes to caring about numbers. Mining and logging data feels like a waste of time, but last week was spirit week and, for the first time, we collected data on who participated. It was amazing. The competitions and numbers were motivating for staff and students and the data helped me see where we could improve. For the first time data made me feel good about the time I put into mining it. I need to take data I’m required to analyze and look at it in unique ways that allow me to feel good about my role in the classroom.
2. Think, Wish – DO
My husband lives big. He never says no to big ideas and he’s always thinking bigger than what anyone else had in mind. This used to make me uncomfortable, but after being together for 12 years, it’s become my way of thinking, too. At the WACA Conference, motivational speaker and “I do what I want bad-ass” Mike Smith said, “I don’t want to be a person who thinks and wishes, I want to do.” It was a great reminder that my frustrations with my job are often because I don’t feel like I can DO anything about whatever is frustrating me. I need to start taking my frustrations and turning them into DO’s, even if they are just small, intentional acts to counterbalance the challenges.
3. Not My Kid
As my district has powered through a curriculum adoption this year I often find myself thinking, “I don’t want our son sitting in a class doing this kind of work EVERY SINGLE DAY.” I’ve been working hard to use a variety of teaching tools, methods and strategies but the monotony of curriculum is killing me. And, beyond that, the lack of time to weave current social, political and justice issue into our units is killing my soul. That’s a lot of killing. Starting now I’m going to find creative ways to weave relevant topics into our academic units to ensure students are learning about what’s going on in the world beyond their own backyard. Putting our heads in the textbooks is never going to create students who are willing and prepared to tackle the world’s most challenge issues. Where there’s a will, there’s got to be a way.
4. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.
A few weeks ago I had to opportunity to look over the fifth grade curriculum that my district adopted. It is beautiful. It looks like they pulled it straight from Pinterest. Seriously. But, one of the bragging points was that the fifth graders were reading a selection from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. My first reaction was “Wow, that’s crazy, as in crazy-gifted and smart. My second reaction, and the one that stuck, was, “Wow, that crazy stupid.” Just because a fifth grader can read Shakespeare doesn’t mean they should. I’m pretty sure Shakespeare wasn’t imagining 10 and 11 year olds analyzing his work. It made me reconsider what I’m expecting students to read and analyze on their own in my classes. Just because the curriculum is created for 8th grade students doesn’t mean it’s 8th grade appropriate. Time to throw different lenses in my glasses.
5. Two Words: Seasonal Depression
OK, so this one isn’t exactly school related and it’s not exactly my fault; however, it has a BIG impact on how I view the world, myself and my work. I don’t know the data (shocking) but we’ve had no sun in a million days (that’s almost true). The lack of weather based cheer makes it hard to power through challenging work with a sunny disposition. I’m committed to not making any major work or life decisions until we’ve had consecutive days of sunshine because I’m pretty sure after that nothing will seem quiet as frustrating, annoying or just plain bad when there’s sunshine in the mix.