Posted in Education, Teaching

Ever Feel Like Less than Your Best?

One of my least favorite things in life is being sick.  I just feel helpless when I’m so sick that I can’t go to school.  I feel as though I’m letting my students down.  I don’t like it one iota.  I know it happens as it’s a part of life, but I’m no fan of being sick when school is in session.  Luckily for me, this year I’ve managed to stay healthy, so far.  Of course now I’ve just jinxed myself and am sure to get sick early next week.  Good thing I knocked on wood.

Have you ever had one of those moments, classes, or days where you just feel a bit off?  Not like sick off, but just not quite at the top of your game?  Perhaps you’re preoccupied with things in your personal life or some difficult situation with a student threw you for a loop.  Whatever the reason, you just feel as though things aren’t going well.  Maybe the lesson doesn’t go as planned or perhaps the students don’t perform as well as you thought they would on an assessment.  Those are the types of moments I’m talking about.  Ever have one of those?  Well, that’s a silly question as I’m sure we all have times like those in our educational careers.  They are a part of teaching, growing, and life.  Feeling a bit off is to be expected every once in awhile; it’s like being sick.  Sometimes things don’t work out the way you had hoped.  That happens.  However, it still doesn’t feel good.  I don’t like not feeling like I’m doing my best for my students.  I feel helpless and like a bad educator.  I know life happens and all, but I always aim for my best at all times and so I tend to be very hard on myself when I don’t feel like an effective educator.

Yesterday, was the start of Parents’ Weekend at my school.  Parents attended classes and we had our student led conferences over the course of yesterday and today.  The boys did a fabulous job owning their learning and explaining to their parents how they will work to improve and grow as a student moving forward.  That part was pretty awesome.  During STEM class yesterday, the students amazed and wowed their parents and other faculty members at my school during our class Science Fair.  The boys were so knowledgeable on their topics and had created such brilliant presentations that it felt like I was walking around a college science fair.  Amazing!  I couldn’t have been more proud of my students.  They kicked some major science butt yesterday.  By all accounts, it seemed like yesterday and today were phenomenal for my students and me.

However, I felt a bit off during the first half of our Humanities class yesterday.  I felt as though I didn’t say the right things to set up and explain our Poetry Slam.  After getting very little sleep and mentally preparing for what I was going to say to introduce and explain the Poetry Slam in class, I felt ready.  But then in class, I totally forgot what I was going to say and said stupid things instead.  I also forgot to fully introduce every student.  For the first few poets, I mentioned the town or place from which they hail, but I forgot to do this for the last few students.  This frustrated me.  I wanted to make them all feel equally supported and cared for.  I just felt like I wasn’t giving my students and their parents my best.  I expressed this concern to my co-teacher and she said it didn’t seem noticeable.  She thought I did a great job, but I felt off.  I didn’t like not setting the scene for our poetry slam well.  It made me uncomfortable.  Sure, I’ve felt like this before, but it’s been awhile since I’ve felt really off.  Following Morning Break, I did feel much better about my performance during the final chunk of Humanities class.  I said what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it.  I just felt like I didn’t give my all to my class during third period and it made me feel helpless.  I hate feeling like that.  Luckily, I got my groove back later that morning and felt like I knocked STEM class out of the park.

So, what was it that caused me to feel a bit off during the start of Humanities class today?  Was it that parents were watching?  Did I feel nervous or self-conscious?  Maybe, as I was worried about how I would be perceived by the parents, which is one of the reasons why I had trouble getting to sleep Thursday night.  I always have difficulty dealing with visitors in my classroom.  I get very nervous and usually mess up what I try to say.  Perhaps that’s why I had a rocky start, because things got better once I dangled my feet in the water of teaching with parents observing.  However, I’ve never had a Parents’ Weekend class feel this bad before.  So, what was different?  Maybe I was worried about not being a good role model for my new co-teacher?  Or perhaps I was so focused on what I wanted to say to introduce the Poetry Slam that I got tongue-tied when I forgot exactly what I wanted to say.

Regardless of the reasons why, I now want to brainstorm a game plan for next time.  What can I do in February when parents come back to campus and observe classes?  How can I be sure I don’t feel less than my best?  Should I write down what I want to say and then read from it like a script?  Might that help?  Maybe, but I don’t like feeling bound to a page or written words.  What if I try to get out of my head and realize that I’m a great teacher who knows how to be effective in the classroom?  Maybe some positive self-talk might help.  As it gets closer to my school’s next Parents’ Weekend, I’ll try some new strategies to try and prevent what happened yesterday from happening again.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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