Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fighting the Enemy of the Good

I cannot believe I've been teaching for 10 years. They say that if you can get over the 10 year mark, you're a life-er. Guess that's me then!

While I've been teaching for 10 years, my experience has ranged from pre-school to 12th grade. And here's the real kicker...This year, I'll be teaching the same classes for the 3rd year in a row - that's my personal record.

Last summer, I was going into year 2 and I was so excited to take what began as good and really fine-tune it into perfect. I read all the teaching books I could squeeze into one summer and my boss frequently had to tell me to go home because I was up at school working while my kids were with their grandma. It was an exhilarating planning time that led to a wonderful, but challenging school year. I began flipping my two Algebra 1 classes which was a tremendous undertaking and a fabulous adventure. I fine-tuned my Algebra 2 class so that my teaching was much more clear and concise and we were able to get much more content into the year (Successfully).

But...the year was far from perfect. I saw so many things that didn't go as I had planned. Areas where I knew I would have to improve. I was so overwhelmed by all of the not-awesome things in the year, that when summer hit this time, I was plum-wore-out. I didn't want to even THINK about school. I had worked so hard the summer before and look at how not-perfect the year had been. Why bother? It doesn't matter. It'll never be what I want it to be...

I even began to think that maybe I didn't want to be a teacher anymore. Maybe I couldn't hack it as a life-er. All of the changing landscapes in education, the fire-hydrant of ideas from which to drink each summer, standards based grading, flipping, the maker movement, 21st century skills, teaching like a pirate, creating a class that kids actually WANT to come's too much. I spent the first half of summer kinda dreading the return of school. I saw it as a black hole of mistakes and kinda-good-enough-ness that I simply didn't want to face.

Thankfully, today, I was reminded of a quote I heard so long ago that I don't even know where I heard it! It's derived from a similar phrase in Voltaire's writing and it states simply "don't let perfect be the enemy of good".

I tell my students all the time that if you're not making mistakes, you're not learning. Now, I like to think of myself as a learner first, teacher second, so by my own logic, I have to be comfortable with mistakes. I have to realize that the past two years brought unique mistakes from which I've learned. Next year will contain it's own mistakes from which I'll learn. I think that when I teach a year that is free of mistakes, I'll resign. Because you can't lead where you're not going and if I'm not making mistakes, I'm not learning and therefore, shouldn't be teaching. There, I said it.

Practice what you preach, Chieffe.

I'm tweaking things for next year. Shoring up those areas where I saw weakness. Making sure that those same areas won't crack in this upcoming year...or at least, hoping they won't. Quite possibly, my repairs this year will have their own flaws and I'll have to readjust next year. That's good - always room for improvement. But I'm not discouraged anymore by the constant need for adjustment. Next year doesn't have to be perfect. Which is good, because I already know it won't be! I want it to be good. Really, really, good. I'd love to change the course of a life next year by building strong relationships and cheering for the underdogs. I hope that along the way, I'll unlock some deeply buried Algebra secrets for an unsuspecting middle schooler. Maybe it'll happen...maybe it won't..but I'm making plans to set myself up for success. It's going to be an extraordinary year - even if it's not a perfect one!

I can't imagine I'm the only one who's ever felt this way. So, to you, fellow perfectionist, I say, hang in there. Be realistic about the really great things you accomplished last year. Be excited about the really great things you're going to accomplish next year! And don't let perfection be your enemy. Together, we'll make exceptional progress in our classrooms and the world will be better (though not perfect) for our having been teachers in it.

With much love,