It is January; a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. So many of us have wonderful resolutions related to our health and wellness as we enter this new calendar year. I would like to throw out a challenge for one more, however. A resolution that is probably more important to your mental well being than any other.
Teaching can be a lonely profession. Some of us are lucky to team teach or to work on a solid team of colleagues that collaborate regularly. We interact with other adults throughout the day, but the majority of our time is spent as the sole adult in a room with malleable minds of all different levels and backgrounds.
Teachers tend to be perfectionists; many of us “type A”. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well, as teachers are responsible for a hugely important task: to change the lives of students while they are with us. If we fail, it affects the lives of our students, and that is a heavy weight to bear.
Throughout recent years, teachers have found incredible ways to make the profession less lonely. Through the creative use of social media and online connections, we have been able to improve our teaching by gaining ideas that others share from across the globe. Just a quick look at Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, and you will find millions of teaching tips, tools, and resources. We can post a question, and a hive of teachers can respond with helpful comments within seconds. These connections are wonderful, and they greatly magnify the old saying that “two heads are better than one.”
But, there’s a downside.
We see the amazing things other teachers are doing. So how is that a downside? Well, it is and it isn’t. Seeing one great idea can spark a change in our classroom and help us tremendously. But seeing ALL the amazing things can be a detriment to our mental well being. Here’s why:
Seeing ALL the ideas can make us doubt our own talents.
We begin comparing ourselves to others, thinking that there are amazing (better) things going on in every else’s classrooms. Nothing gives me more comparison anxiety than looking at the never-ending Instagram stories of the wonderfully talented, artistic teachers who post pictures and videos of their classroom design and seemingly perfect activities. We can easily get lost in this world and lose confidence in our own ideas. If we change our plans/routines/focus every time we see something that might be better, it drains us of our time and energy. It also takes away the consistency that students need in order to master concepts.
Tip: Remember that there is no one “right way” to teach. You might be doing it differently than someone else, but your way could be just as effective, if not better! Personally, I have much more success when I take an idea that I see and make it my own rather than following someone else’s lesson plan. You know what your students need. Have confidence, and don’t second guess yourself unless something is going wrong.
Seeing ALL the ideas requires us to do a lot of curating.
Some activities look beautiful but end up being fluff. Some miss the objective. Some are time-consuming to prep and end up being subpar to the way we originally taught the concept. And every now and then, we find something brilliant that we keep and use forever. I find that many times I could have actually created an activity myself in the amount of time it took to compare and contrast all of the options I found, but I got sucked into looking for the next best thing as a quick fix for my lesson.
Tip: Set a time limit for searching, and look past the flashy images — keep a clear focus on your goal and objective. Instead of making a general search, start by searching sources you trust due to their consistent reliability for high-quality, rigorous materials. (Start here!)
Seeing ALL the ideas can be information overload.
I love Twitter for learning about new educational topics. I once read that educators on Twitter are “in the know” about new educational ideas about a year prior to the same topics being mentioned at a faculty meeting. It is like fast-forwarding advancement in the classroom. Being a connected educator has truly changed my trajectory as a teacher. However, there are SO MANY ideas. It is impossible to implement them all. While it is great to be “in the know”, we will never be able to do it all with fidelity. Which circles us back to our first reason: Comparison. We start to think everyone else is doing more/better.
Tip: Pick one idea that you think would make the most impact for YOUR students and put your time and energy into perfecting that. Be aware of other trends that are happening, but chip away at implementing them as you feel ready.
For this year’s resolution, make one that is more important than anything. Resolve to remember your values as a teacher and have confidence in your ability. Don’t fall into the comparison trap. Your students need consistency. They need your encouragement, your support, your expertise, and your love. YOU are enough.
Dyan is a third grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.