Leadership Teaching and Learning

Excel at Everything! Do it RIGHT NOW!

June 10, 2019

Last week, I asked a teacher I admire if she wanted to share some of her passions with my blog readers. Her answer made me sad. She said she didn’t feel like she had done anything worth sharing this year – new grade level, new school, etc. had all left her feeling like she was less than best.

I wasn’t sure how best to respond. I mean, she’s amazing. Why doesn’t she see that? Then, a principal forwarded me an eloquent article about the virtues of being average in school. And this passage struck a nerve:

School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best. 

Let’s Hear It For the Average Child by Margaret Renkl

How fortunate that many of our students, once graduated, will become part of this “real life” in which they can feel valued for that in which they excel, and feel like they don’t have to excel in everything else.
(I could start a side rant about how students should feel that way every single day, but that’s a different post for a different day…)

But what happens to the teachers who live the majority of their life, from age four or five to retirement, devoid of this “real life” experience?

What happens to people who feel the pressure every single day to excel at everything?

How can teachers feel valued for what they are doing?

How can site and district leaders support teachers, not only in their professional growth, but also for the skills and passion they possess and share with students already?

How can we build an inclusive culture of camaraderie and joy (and LOVE!) so that teachers aren’t burned out with the constant demand to learn more, do more, excel more?

Because the truth of the situation is that the teacher I asked to blog IS amazing, and she excels at inspiring students to learn and question and grow every day. But if her measurement of worthiness is this unreasonable expectation of excellence in everything, then the system surely has failed her as much as it has failed the ‘average’ student.

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  1. Dr. Laura.. (I like the way that rings). I can relate. I work help desk for the VA. I am expected (by the users) that I understand not only every aspect of the application they have in front of them (which is actually several hundred) and should be able to diagnose and quickly fix as I walk by their desk. I am expected to be courteous when the users are insulting. I am expected to be on my game every day of the week. It is draining. Much like a teacher who has to be game on regardless of any personal trauma going on, or the usual politics that I am sure are invasive of the school as well. The beginning is at the start of class.

    I am human.

    I make mistakes, and will make more. There are some things in this class that I will absolutely rock your socks off with, and other stuff that will bore you to tears. To set the expectation, not only of the student, but the teacher as well. There is a start. a reckoning of what the teacher knows they can do, and what they know they cannot do.

    Have teachers reach out to meaningful short skits. 5 minute AHAS!

    Example I intend to use when I begin teaching college to young men and women.

    Stop for a moment. Stop. phones down, books closed, everything off. Stop.

    Look around you for a moment. Take it in. What are you doing in life? remember to stop and evaluate that once in awhile. Because what you study here becomes your life. and if you don’t like what you are doing now? You are going to hate what you will do years from now. Put aside money, put aside concerns. Focus on what excites you. find that. look at it, ask yourself why. Get to understand what drives you, regardless of how silly it may sound. Don’t let a snap judgement to go to school ruin your future because you took the easy way out, or just want the money. I have seen multi-millionaires who would have been happy to give it up to live a few years recklessly.

    Life is short. regardless of how long you live. Do what you love to do, what excites you, what gives you reason to get up in the morning, and if you haven’t found that yet? nothing like right now to start a quest.

    Set your expectations. then excel on them. and remember to pat yourself on the back when you succeed.

    I was a high school drop out, was told I would never amount to a hill of beans by a high school vice principal as he kicked me out for the 4th and last time. I left school, got my GED and headed to the military.

    Years later when I received my Masters? Had a note in my hat… “***k you Mr. Lair” was all it said. Summa Cum Laude. and remembered to pat myself on the back.

    Connect with the kids on not only an educational level, but, where you can? on a life experience level. Makes the shortcomings tolerable.

    Good luck!

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