It’s what we all strive for, right? We aim to have the perfect lesson plan, perfect behaviour management and perfect understanding of the topics. We take every noisy outburst, every non-fun activity, every question we can’t answer as a sign that we are not good enough.
I know I can beat myself up about this often. I want my classes to be engaging and dynamic, and when my best-laid plans fizzle out and go astray, I blame myself. I’m not dedicated enough; I need more time. We say no to family, friend or me-time and in the end, it burns us out.
A few weeks ago, I stayed up late, trying to prepare a lesson for creative writing in my English class. I wanted to tailor it to my students, knowing that they prefer shorter activities, moving around the room and need plenty of opportunities for application. After doing extensive reading of our class text and noting down the relevant page references, I made activity cards for several ‘stations’ around the room. I made them look pretty and laminated them (because I’d put in all this hard work; I needed to save these for future classes!)
When it came time to complete the activity, students had their best go and seemed to be learning a few things. It was all worth it! Then there was one loud voice in the class, calling out, “This is boring” and “I’m not learning anything”. I was gutted. I looked around the room again and started to pick out all the things I had done wrong. Could I have had fewer stations? Should I have used a video to make it more engaging? Would I ever get it right?
I chewed over this lesson far more than I really needed to. In the end, I had to remind myself that I am a human being. I will never be perfect. It just canât happen. And you know what? I don’t think I have ever expected perfection from a peer or student, so I shouldn’t do this to myself.
So now I’m going to be brave and say, I’m okay with not being the perfect teacher. It is not humanly possible and pursuing this lofty goal means my family and mental health suffer. More than that, I’m okay with not being the perfect teacher because it means I am a learning teacher.
We encourage students to develop a growth mindset. We want them to say, “I don’t know it yet.” Shouldn’t we model this in our own learning journey? Yeah, I’m still going to be organised, and aim to get all homework back on time. I’ll keep chipping away at making my classes interesting and productive. I’m also going to make a point to discuss my process with students though. They need to see me making mistakes and working hard to improve. They need to see me saying, “I don’t know yet”.
Each year, I negotiate expectations in the classroom. When I make my pretty poster and put it on display in the classroom, I always have a little note at the bottom saying: You don’t have to be perfect. We’re all still learning. In this class, we aim to grow.
It’s time to take my own advice.
Download the poster:Â 306-487-1199