If someone tells you teaching is easy, they probably don't really know teaching. Teaching (real, from the heart, cutting-edge, responsive teaching) is challenging, difficult work. But challenge and difficulty are the companions of words like joyful, rewarding, and meaningful. Teaching is for the dedicated, the passionate, the hopeful, and the innovative. But let's be honest - as with all things, our hopes outpace our skills for a long, long time. No matter where we are in our teaching career, the difference between how we envision our days with children and how those days actually play out can be kind of shocking, much like the experience of picturing the perfect date and having it go all haywire. Teaching isn't just about you putting on a magnificent one-person show; it is about the relationships and interactions of every child in the classroom. You cannot and should not plan to control all of the outcomes of your classroom; you should hope to construct them alongside your children.
There is a pretty good chance that some of your teaching days go great. There is also a pretty good chance that some days, you want to give up. Does it help to know we all have those days? Probably not, but we all do. We have found that there are things to keep in mind that make this journey easier on our brains and our souls and help us practice being better humans along the way.
Don't Hope for Perfection, Plan for Growth
We teachers tend to be strivers. Some of us who have prided ourselves on being the "best" students have had (and continue to have) the hardest time transitioning to being the "best" teacher. Why is that? Well, some of it is wrapped up in that word best.
The real key is how we see setbacks, because let's be clear, we teachers encounter a lot of them. If you see a setback as a threat to your identity ("But I am supposed to be good at this!"), it is very hard to confront it and learn from it. But when we are able to see setbacks as a natural part of learning and living, look at them honestly, and come away with some valuable feedback about what to try differently next time (there will always be a next time!), then we live as teachers who constantly grow and develop and constantly improve and refine our practice. Some people quit teaching because they thought it would be easy. Some people resist change or "do it how it has always been done" because they fear failing and feeling like they might be bad people. But risk and change bring a promise of growth and learning.
There is no one perfect way to live as a skilled teacher, but there are some strategies that will support you as you evolve - no matter where you are along your teaching journey. You have chosen a craft, like woodworking or sculpting. New influences will enter your life, you will learn as you do, you will read more, understand more, shift, and change. Don't plan to figure it all out right away, let the journey be the goal.
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Christine Hertz is coauthor of the Heinemann titles Kids First from Day One and A Mindset for Learning. She finds great joy and challenge in helping all children grow as independent and engaged students. She is passionate about keeping play and creativity at the center of children's lives and curiosity and wonder at the heart of learning. Christine has taught in a wide variety of classrooms from preschool to fourth grade and as an adjunct instructor of education courses. She currently teaches in Worcester, Vermont. You can follow her on Twitter @christine_hertz or visit her website at christinehertz.com
Kristine Mraz is coauthor—with Christine Hertz—of the new Kids First from Day One, which provides a practical blueprint for increasing the child-centeredness of your teaching practice. She and Christine previously teamed up for the bestselling A Mindset for Learning, which provides practical and powerful strategies for cultivating optimism, flexibility, and empathy alongside traditional academic skills. Kristi teaches Kindergarten in the New York City Public schools. In addition to writing and teaching, she consults in schools across the country and as far away as Taiwan. She primarily supports teachers in early literacy, play, and inquiry based learning. You can follow all of her adventures on twitter @MrazKristine or on her blog kinderconfidential.wordpress.com