A Few Reminders
I was reminded today of what an incredible group of people I work with. You might be surprised at this statement if you've been reading my blog lately. I've been whining about unrealistic expectations and overbearing administrators for a little while now. However, I can honestly say that the teachers I work with are some of the most incredible people I've ever met in this profession. Many of them are young and very similar to me. Some of them have been around awhile and have loads of experience teaching in DC. And a few of them have just begun their journey into teaching after years working in other professions. They've traveled far and wide, speak many different languages, are inspired to change the world, have an excellent ability to interact in an engaging and respectful way with our student population, and generally love their job despite all the bull. But the most amazing thing about this staff? Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is mediocre (mostly because they'd get fired, but I'm trying to stick to the positive).
I'm reminded of all of this because the ninth and tenth-grade teachers have been doing a Tribes training the last two days. Tribes is a program (for-profit I suspect, although am not sure) that seeks to shift educators aims away from developing students who can show proficiency on standards-based tests and toward developing the whole child. They do this by training teachers on how to best model and implement an inclusive atmosphere that makes every student feel welcome and respected. Part of this is a bunch of getting-to-know-you activities, which the teachers, of course, had to act out in order to be better prepared to do them with students.
Although I've been to more engaging and worthwhile teacher-training workshops, it was a good opportunity to sit down and remind myself that I work with people again. I haven't really thought of my co-workers that way recently. More often than not, they're just faces I see in the hallway and nod at. There's no real conversation there because we don't know each other. I have to admit that this reality is one of the reasons I often feel so stressed out by this job. Part of me feels like there's nobody else going through it with me. We all stay locked up in our rooms and venture out only to act like professionals (not real people) in our department and SLC meetings. Today I got to hang out with some people. We complained about the school and made jokes. It was fantastic. It kind of took the 1984 effect away from the school (it's easy for administrators to manipulate the staff if there's no communication amongst them).
One of the best parts about this was a conversation I had with a new Spanish teacher. He asked how my year was progressing, and I told him how stressed out I was. I related that I feel that one of the big reasons I think I feel so stressed out all the time is that I'm a perfectionist. I need to feel that my lessons are perfect and my obligations are all squared away for the next day before I go to bed at night. The Spanish teacher kind of looked at me and said, "Dude, you need to stop. No matter what happens, the bell rings at 3:15 every day." I only nodded at the time, but I continued to think about it. Even though his statement isn't entirely true (like when security comes around and tells us we have to hold students in the room because of a fight or some tragic event occurring outside the building), the point is a valid one. The day will end; the students will leave; and I need to remember that I'm a human with needs that go beyond getting satisfaction from a job well done. It's one of those things that's so obvious, and you always know is true, but until you stop to consider it in light of your current situation, you don't really take the time to reflect on its implications.
So it's time to stop stressing so much. I'm not going to do any less work, or care any less about my job, but I am going to try and let go of the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. The bell rings at 3:15 every day. I'm not going to have the perfect day and my kids are not going to learn as much as they could if I was the perfect teacher. I will never be the perfect teacher, and I will never make my administrators completely happy. Those things will always be true; time to accept them.
So I'll give an honest effort (not my best, because if I held myself to that I couldn't honestly do anything but work and sleep) and work until I need time for myself.
The bell rings every day at 3:15.