As I pointed out a few days ago, when I walk past other classrooms, my mind tends to convince me those teachers' students are always focused and driven to succeed. I do not doubt in the least that other teachers have shared those feelings because we only see what is on the outside-- standards-based bulletin boards with all the right components, impeccable blog posts if the teacher contributes to the online education community, properly-formed respectful lines in the hallway, and general "withitness", a word I coined from Harry Wong's First Days of School.
Whenever even the littlest of things happen within my own walls, I think to myself, I am the only person on this Earth who is dealing with a situation like this right now. Has your mind ever convinced you that your "withitness" pales in comparison to those around you? Like when...
- Everyone has submitted the benchmark data to the team leader prior to you?
- Other teachers have been compiling specific reports for their students for quite some time-- and you haven't?
- You are chatting with a friend who knew about the ACE strategy like three years before you?
- Your table is cluttered with an array of papers and 97 of those have to be sent home ASAP?
- You glean "simple" and "efficient" organizational tips from Pinterest only to be self-sabotaged a mere three hours into the school day?
- You grin like Bruce in Finding Nemo when you scratch something off your to-do list, and then fifteen seconds later, that fiendish grin dissipates because you have to add three new things to your agenda?
- You realize you have those same fifteen seconds to set up for your first middle school Technology Club meeting of the year-- which is purely informational-- yet 40 extremely enthusiastic students are crowding outside your door, ready to burst through?
Well, yeah, uh... that last one pertains to moi, but you know that feeling...
...The feeling of having two minutes to make it to the restroom AND Houdini yourself over to the copy machine after shoving down lunch, responding to two e-mails, and gathering science experimentation supplies together from your closet like a cyborg octopus.
Or the feeling where you are quickly inputting data for your team and a student asks you for a Band-Aid PRONTO (which you cannot keep out because you don't want your students to grab them for unnecessary reasons) while three other students are seeking your one-on-one assistance with multi-digit multiplication problems and the front office gets on the intercom asking you to call their extension?
We call it the "just one more thing" feeling.
- Just one more bit of data.
- Just one more set of graded papers.
- Just one more reminder that needs to be sent out to parents ASAP.
- Just one more differentiated set of stations.
While knee-deep in "that feeling", you wonder who else in the world could possibly be expected to perform tasks at a rate of .009 seconds each.
And... you realize, you have not received more than six hours of sleep for the past five days, so your eyelids are heavy and at least eight hours of meaningful, uninterrupted sleep is calling your name.
You may think while there, every other one of your co-workers is inherently more talented than you are... that you are covered in rust while they are made of titanium.
The thing is, our minds lie to us from time to time, and nobody in any profession is perfect 100% of the time.
Here's how to turn that feeling around. Affirm yourself.
- Express gratitude to yourself for the things you do right. While you were trying to Houdini yourself and were forced into the position of being a cyborg octopus, at least you accomplished everything on your list at that moment.
- You may not have graded that one stack of papers by the end of the day for your students as you promised, but they can still receive their scores as they walk in tomorrow morning.
- You were patient with your students today-- understanding, gentle, and encouraging. Your students walked out the door and told you to have a wonderful weekend. Two students told you that you are a fantastic teacher and perhaps one of the best they will ever have. Your patience carried you very, very far.
- Your students appreciate what you do to differentiate instruction. They appreciate your efforts in making them keep incredible journals. They respond well to your lesson plans, and...
- ...Their test scores have been SENSATIONAL!
- Ultimately, you have accomplished so much in the course of a week, and you really deserve some downtime for yourself.
Even when your stress level is at a level 97 out of a possible 100, affirming yourself can help you to put things in perspective. You need to be grateful for your efforts.
Of course, I have had to take some deep breaths within the last few years or so and realize that absolutely nobody is made of titanium.
Being able to complete 47 tasks at once with optimal patience, ease, and mindfulness is immensely impossible.
We won't always be on fleek, but at least we gave each day our all.
Encourage your colleagues and be genuine/considerate in times of need. You are doing the very best you can, and if you have not heard that from anyone over the course of the past few days, you seriously need to, even if it's coming from me and I have never met you. You change lives every day and inspire your students to achieve unbelievable things, even when you do not realize it.
Here is a quote for you, a hard-working, dedicated, and tremendous professional:
“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” ― Helen Caldicott