This post is dedicated to my friend, Katri. She knows why :)
Every day I experience small failures in my classroom. Every day I question my teaching qualifications and wonder, after 24 years, when someone will finally discover that I don’t belong in this job. Every day I look at a frustrated student and think to myself, “It’s not you; it’s me. I should have done this differently.”
I share about 5% of my teaching life on this blog. The other 95% is mediocre at its best and somewhat Keystone-Cop-like at its worst. And I promise that is not false humility. Some days, the only thing that I can be proud of is that I abided by my own oath to, “First, do no harm.” Making sure I don’t take out my own frustrations by delivering biting words to my students is a daily struggle.
Last week, I had a particularly bad day with one of my classes. It started out well with a fabulous Skype conference that seemed to benefit all participants. But then came a Genius Hour presentation which did not go at all well.
The group presenting for Genius Hour had shown all signs of meticulous preparation beforehand. They took pages of notes while Skyping with an expert, had beautifully designed posters, and spent hours rehearsing. The resulting project, however, gave little information – and then gave way to a lot of silliness.
Afterward, I kept retracing my Genius Hour guidance steps to figure out where I had gone wrong. I’m still not sure. I think one big problem was that I over-emphasized making the presentations less monologue-y and more interactive. This seemed to translate as, “Don’t include too many facts and do include a highly amusing but not very educational game in which the audience can participate.” Combine that with a class that just got finished with two days of state testing and the tantalizing summer breeze outside of our classroom, and disaster was pretty much guaranteed.
I would like to say that I composed myself after the presentation and managed to salvage the rest of the day, but you can surmise from the beginning of this sentence that I didn’t. I think I managed to, “Do No Harm,” but I’m pretty sure I did, “No Help,” either.
For at least an hour, my students did what they rarely do in my class – they all worked on the same exact assignment at the same exact time.
Any time I attempted to do a small group activity, I felt like I was playing Whack-a-Mole as I continuously found myself redirecting off-task behavior.
By the end of the day, I asked the students for suggestions. They gave me some good feedback, so I will try to act on it and modify accordingly for this week.
This post is not about asking for sympathy or advice. It’s actually my way of saying, “Thank you.” Thank you to all of the teachers out there who try to do your best every day. Even though your best may not always be the best, and you suffer from self-doubt the majority of the time, you get up each morning, re-adjust, and try again. And, as a reward for your perseverance, you will experience those rare moments when you feel like you are the teacher you always wanted to be.
Teachers aren’t superheroes. But if we get things right every once in awhile, we might inspire a few students to save the world.