I am not a techy teacher. Well, some of you think I am, but I really lack in this are so much compared to my friends like Dyane, Mike, Tony, & Gina. These folks inspire me to be better at it, but secretly I am afraid so many times. But, my fear to not prepare students for their future was greater, so I would always try techy lessons. I loved them after the fact, but leading up to them, I was all nerves.
The other day this article popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook. It was heartbreaking to read some of the responses that students wrote for their teachers to know. I think this should be a required back to school experience in every classroom. We must know our students this well if we want to reach them. Students carry around a lot more than most of us realize. These kids had a lot of courage to share their thoughts and be so vulnerable. Sharing your inner feelings about your fears, worries, and emotions isn’t easy. It exposes the real you and sets the stage for criticism, yet it also empowers you and helps others to see the normalcy of so many of the things we all deal with.
Taking my cues from the students in the article, I decided to write this blog post to share with ya’ll my teacher fears, worries, and emotions, all on the outside of my mind, knowing full well that I am opening myself up to all kinds of criticism, yet hoping above all that it starts a dialogue between teachers so that we can overcome our fears and insecurities to strengthen our profession. A few years ago when I won some awards for being a great teacher, lots of people put me on a pedestal, assumed I had it all together in my classroom, and had no concerns about my ability as a teacher. Nothing could be further from the truth as you will read below. The awards helped, but the insecurities remained strong and intact. I am nervous even as I type this because I know the words that you are about to read are going to expose me to the teacher world in a way that I have never been before. Being open and honest isn’t easy, but If me being a vulnerable educator leads you to being a stronger teacher for your students, then it’s all worth it.
Here is what I wish other teachers knew…
I am clueless about teacher jargon. Yes, I have a MAT degree. Yes, I have sat through countless meetings talking about every acronym under the educational sun. Yes, I am a director of PD. But, it’s true, all those “teachery” words just aren’t my thing. I know what to do to teach every child, and to be good at it, but those words… forget about it. Google is my friend. I look up a lot of stuff. It took me almost 13 years to understand summative vs. formative, and I cannot even say pedagogical. My teacher friend Dawn Mitchell knows all these words. I keep her on speed dial.
I am not very well read. Yes, I read. Yes, I can comprehend. Yes, I was the Reading Teacher of the Year once. But, reading is so difficult for me. A book that takes normal readers a week to finish would take me two months. Seriously. 2. Months. That is why I always hated faculty book studies. You would have to have 3-4 chapters read each week. I could barely get through one in a week. I learned how to participate though. I just wouldn’t speak first. I would let the “more educated” speak then build off of what they brought to the group. Maybe my reading struggle is what made me a more patient reading teacher. Regardless, the struggle is real, and it’s not my favorite thing to do.
I questioned my teaching every single day. Sometimes, I even cried about it. Often, the tears would come as soon as I closed my classroom door at the end of the day. Did I teach regrouping correctly? Did I love them enough? Did I speak too harshly to kid misbehaving? Did I communicate respectfully to the parents, coworkers, students? These questions frequently brought tears to my eyes. I am such an emotional person. Tears come very easy for me. Many times I would be reading a story to my students and get choked up. Once while reading Lisa Wheeler’s, Turk and Runt, I cried so much that students started crying with me. It isn’t even an emotional book, but the love that Runt has for his family even though they treated him poorly just gets to me every time I read it. I really should get a grip.
I am not a good weekly lesson planner. My lesson plans were always (still are sometimes) last minute. I did my best thinking in the moment, thus my most creative ideas came when I was under pressure to finish them. Last minute thinking doesn’t work well when the whole week’s plans have to be on your desk first thing Monday morning. How could I make a plan for Friday when I had no idea how the kids would take the information Monday-Thursday. My best friend, Matt Johnson, he is the best lesson planner I know! Wow! I wanna be like him! You should see him think through the details of his week. One day at a time just worked better for me though. One of my favorite lessons that I do with Peter Reynold’s, The Dot, was literally thought of in the shower before school. I got to school, gathered my materials, and made magic happen. Yes, I had something in the little square in my little plan book for that day, but those little squares were just there because someone told me they had to be, not because they made me a better teacher. (Disclaimer: ALL beginning teachers should plan, plan, plan. This confession is more for the veterans.) (Insert smiley emoji) Yes… I was always prepared and ready to teach students, but those little boxes don’t make you a good teacher. A color coded plan book full of great ideas doesn’t mean you know how to implement them.
I was nervous every single day I was in the classroom. Would today be the day I blinked at recess and missed something important? Would today be the day I didn’t know how to teach a certain skill? Would today be the day that a student rode the bus home but should have been in the car line? Would today be the day I be asked about my teaching methods in a faculty meeting and have no clue how to answer? Would today be the day I accidentally stapled my finger and shouted a bad word in front of students as I winced from the pain? Would today be the day that parents charged the office and demand their kid be removed from my room because they didn’t like me, my lifestyle, or my teaching style? I know you are nervous about things too. Hang in there. As I reflect on all of that worry, it definitely didn’t help anything. It took away precious moments that I could have been making a mark.
I am intimidated by you. Yes, you read that right. I am intimidated every time I walk into a classroom of another teacher. It never fails. I walk into your rooms and immediately see amazing anchor charts, organization to the Nth degree, centers designed for every learner, journals filled with the most amazing work, technology being utilized in a way that would make Steve Jobs proud, and I hear your patient voice just as sweet as pie! Without hesitation, I start comparing everything you do, with everything I do/did, and instantly, I feel like I stink at teaching. You are amazing, and I feel like I have a lot to learn because of your awesomeness.
Now that you know all this, I don’t have to “wish you knew” anymore. What I do wish, is that you would be just as honest with yourself. Face your teacher fears, weaknesses, emotions. Grow stronger as you conquer each one. And, most importantly, remember you’re not alone. We are in this together for the sake of our students.