Newbie teachers or teachers-to-be who have observed in my classroom will always get this advice from me: You have to learn when and how to let yourself off the hook.
We teachers go into this crazy, effed-up world of education with a mother load of idealistic goals and values, as I believe we should. Why would anyone do it otherwise? However, balancing those ideals with in-your-face reality is a constant battle.
It took me a few years to determine where to draw the line. I frequently have to reflect on what’s using up my energy and how effective it is. So I remind myself about the following:
I can’t be everything to everybody.
At first, I thought I was expected to be super-teacher and that I could make a huge difference in every student (inflated ego?); now, I’m a big believer that if I can’t seem to connect with a student, even after great effort, I have to trust that there is someone else out there who will make an impact on that child: Another teacher, a mentor, a relative, a celebrity, someone.
If I burn myself out, I’m no good to anyone.
With a minimum of 120 kids per year, I can either spin my wheels and exhaust myself trying to make mountainous strides with each student, or I can try to follow the motto, “Quality, not quantity, is golden.” (I don’t know if I made this up, or if I’m ripping it off, nevertheless, I’m using it.)
How do I decide who gets most of my attention and energy? Just constant reflection, awareness, and prayer. There’s no magic formula because students are people, not numbers.
If you have a teacher motto that you’ve found works for you, please share. Or, if you are about to embark on the treacherous journey of being an educator, feel free to ask questions. I might not know the answer, but maybe we can find it together. 🙂