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Friday, September 25, 2009

Letting Go of the Ego

Something that I've really had to work on this week and last is taking criticism and working through it. Last week I was stressing about helping my kids meet a World History standard. It's listed below:

Describe the connection between natural resources, capital, labor and entrepreneurs in an industrial economy.

The idea is that by the time I was done teaching, the kids would be able to do this. Now, if you have any sort of social studies education background, you know that this is a particularly rich standard that can be very challenging to get across to inner-city kids who have little to no background knowledge about economics or the industrial revolution. After looking at all of the resources I had available, I decided that I needed to create my own. I sat down and wrote two readings for my kids to do and created two worksheets for them to complete as they read. I made the language as simple as possible so that my English language learners (which make up over fifty percent of my population) would not be overwhelmed. When it was over, I felt like the kids really got it. They were asking good questions and intelligently discussing the pros and cons of the industrial revolution. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

"Awesome! I really am one hell of a teacher! Look at what I got these kids to accomplish."

Then my administrators came in on their unscheduled observations and gave me feedback. They essentially trashed my ideas. "That's not rigorous enough." "You're holding the students to low expectations." "Don't assume they can't understand the textbook. You're giving them a crutch."

I was shocked. I spent all this time carefully planning the easiest way for my kids to read about an incredibly complex group of ideas (which I felt didn't need to be made any more complex through the use of cumbersome vocabulary) and my administrators let me know that it was essentially harming my students. "Use the textbook," they told me. "But the textbook doesn't even define capital except for to explain that money is a type of capital," I thought. I was seriously pissed off - too angry to see through my own emotions. I suspect this is mostly because I spent so much time creating this activity and they spent so little time observing it.

Later in the week I was again reminded that I was an awful teacher by DCPS's new teacher assessment tool (see previous post). Lastly, passive-aggressive conflict with one of my new housemates (although I'm not sure which one - long story) that ended with me being called a douche bag and the suggestion that I needed to live with my mother seriously pissed me off again.

All of this really made me think about the role my ego plays in my dealing with people and how to manage it. When an administrator comes into my room and looks at my teaching with a face that non-verbally says, "What the hell are you doing in here? Why did I hire you?" my immediate response is, "I work hard and you don't stay for more than 5 minutes in my class or answer any of my e-mails requesting your help." Now that doesn't provide me with anything useful except for anger. If I could just let go of the teacher ego I've built up over the years and, instead of get angry at him, try to see it from his point of view, I could probably learn a few things, regardless of whether he's entirely right or wrong. The same is probably true for the passive-aggressive housemate who doesn't sign his/her name on anonymous notes left in the bathroom.

If I can learn through these interactions by suppressing the natural reaction of my ego, I might learn to develop quicker as a human being. I mean, why should I let these people's thoughts disrupt my day unless I'm afraid that what they're saying is true anyway? And I think that's what it all boils down to. I let people mess with my ego if I believe that they have credibility. But what do we need egos for anyway. Why should it bother me if someone else thinks I'm horrible at something. Why can't I just say, "Okay...." It's an interesting thing - that ego.

Either way, the reality is that it's there and it has to be managed. I've learned to kill a little part of mine this past week, and I think I've become a little bit of a more mature person as a result. Hopefully I can take this lesson and use it to inform my future interactions with others when either my or their ego might be involved.

Here's to not taking things personally.

2 comments:

  1. "That's not rigorous enough." :: I think what they meant to say was that true academics are supposed to use language incomprehensible to the general population. If they see your students truly engaged and comprehending something the lesson must not be hard enough... Hehe.

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  2. And if the kids don't seem to get it, then it's too rigorous and you have to learn to "meet them where they are."

    If you are successful in meeting them where they are and it's in second grading reading class, then they definitely are not going to pass your middle school course.

    That is, it's a no-win situation.

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