A friend confessed to me yesterday that he thought my last blog entry was “fluffy”. He told me that I was beginning to sound like teaching was all hearts and roses and he intuited that I was missing an opportunity to hit on some important issues.
I must say, I worried about this recently. Admittedly, I sometimes look at my own class and little bluebirds fly around my head. I’m not joking. I feel that “in love” with them. The community we are building together (not to mention all the academic achievements) brings a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that feels really good. It’s the kind of thing they mean when they talk about teaching being a rewarding profession.
But truth be told, I’m no Pollyanna. Yes, I respect each kid. Yes, I encourage diversity of ideas. Yes, I try to appreciate each kid’s respective learning and behavior style. But there are some days that feel like we’re all going backwards. Days when my best strategies are not working and when, despite my best efforts, I am at a loss for how to handle something.
The challenges of teaching can run the gamut from demanding (sometimes irrational) parents, to children who are unresponsive to your best teaching methods, to social issues between kids that seem impenetrable. There are so many personalities to contend with. Co-teachers, administrators, parents, all those kids – and the work is personal, which means it gets messy. This profession can be exhausting in a way that is uniquely both physical and emotional.
At the end of the day, kids are kids and development, contrary to popular belief, is not linear. Those days that the classroom feels like Lord of the Flies, it’s okay to let go of the reins a bit and accept that the kids in the class might be having an off day. To step back, take a deep breath and gain perspective on the big picture. To understand that education and learning are organic in many ways, which means teaching can be very unpredictable.
It’s true. Teaching isn’t all hearts and roses and kids, being the small people that they are, have the same complexities that adults do – just in a smaller, more compact form. Every day brings its share of highs and lows and the best teachers are the ones who adapt and change accordingly. Those who are resilient and able to get back up after one of those bad days. (see: Teaching Children to Get Up Off the Mat)