03 Aug Any Minute Now: A Reminder for Teachers
So, teacher. You’re feeling anxious. And excited. And overwhelmed.
I get that.
Any minute now, you’ll be facing a room of expectant young faces, and you’re probably not sure if you can meet all the expectations. Let’s get this out of the way up front – you can’t.
You can’t meet all of their expectations, or their parents’, or your administrators’.
Most importantly, you won’t be able to meet all of your own.
You just can’t. You are one person, and one person can only do so much.
I know you. I know that this summer, you’ve seen ideas on Pinterest you’ve thought might be amazing in your room. I know you saw that sale at Office Max and stocked up on colored pencils and colored copy paper. As you were reading on the beach, you dog-eared passages that you want to share as beautiful examples of prose. The teacher in you might have slept later and might not have graded papers this summer, but you didn’t stop being a teacher. You thought of what didn’t work last year and what might be better this year, and you imagined what you could do to make a bigger difference.
In other words, you continued to build the mountain of expectations that sits on a teacher’s shoulders. The mountain that, if not examined and realistically sifted through, can become a burden. The mountain that grows with every new piece of legislation and every new set of standards and every new piece of technology. The mountain that we want so badly to scale and daily feel like is growing.
So here’s my humble advice to you who desires so badly to conquer the world in your classroom this year. (It’s also my advice to myself.)
Keep the main thing the main thing.
Details sometimes are the devil’s playground, and in a classroom, details can overwhelm and consume you to the point you feel like all of your efforts are in vain.
They are not, and to be honest, some of the details we so intently consume ourselves with are unimportant. (Ouch, right? They are, some of them. Believe this perfectionist. Some details are unimportant.) You cannot do it all, so you need to honestly assess what you can do. What you MUST do. You cannot – and must not – do it all.
I don’t know the details of your curriculum, and I don’t know the details of your students’ lives. I don’t know the exact pressures you feel, and I don’t know your inner dialogue right now. What I do know is this: children will be sitting in your classroom very soon, and those children need you. Sure, they should know multiplication and mitosis, and I’m convinced cursive handwriting should be on that list, too. They should know a lot of the standards we teach, and they should know a lot that we don’t. But what do they need? They need you.
They need an adult who cares and shows it. They need an adult who listens. They need an adult who sees that they’re scared, and they need an adult to hear what they can’t say. They need an adult who won’t accept excuses, but they also need an adult who knows not every case is the same.
They need you. You might be feeling unqualified or under-trained, incompetent or ill-equipped. You might be feeling a whole heap of things we teachers feel, and you might be feeling like you’ll fail before you begin.
I’ll say it again. Keep the main thing the main thing.
The main thing is the hearts of those children who will be sitting in your classroom. Yes, the brain must be taught, but the brain won’t learn if the heart isn’t safe. Your task is to make it so (even if your job isn’t). You went into this field because you wanted to make a difference. We all did. Yes, we love our content. But more than that, we need to love our kids.
I have a stack of things to do nearby, and I have a list a mile long. I have pressures I’m already putting on myself, and I have pressures I feel from outside. But I’m telling myself this before I tackle all of that: keep the main thing the main thing. Love those kids. Expect a lot. Listen a lot. Laugh a lot. The kids are the main thing. The details are secondary.