Friday, May 1, 2015

Year 5: Week 32 – The "Perfect" Day

As a teacher you plan and you prep your students for experience and you hope for the best. Along with this optimism, teaching requires you to brace yourself for disruptions, because along with every great accomplishment there are issues.

When the work we do with our kids is combined with the interpersonal dynamics of adults working together, it is inevitable that things go awry. Things cannot go perfectly at a school. Disorder and chaos will occur, students will misbehave during a concert, some students will get into a heated disagreement and faculty will disagree about important issues.

Our instinct is to strive to minimize these problems that seem to get in the way our teaching. We can always do better, but no matter how many talks we have with students, things will happen. The best students act thoughtlessly, and the greatest teachers’ passion create disagreements.

It’s hard to not get frustrated when things don’t seem to work as well as they should. I’m doing a project where my 3rd graders are doing a joint performance with the 7th grade choir of songs from Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Yesterday, I dove into the insanity of rehearsing almost on hundred students crammed into our choir room. Overall the kids did a fantastic job.

When we were debriefing about the experience one of my 3rd graders pointed out that she observed one of the 7th grade students misbehaving. This was disappointing for me because I had told the 3rd graders that 7th graders were good role models and I had reminded the 7th graders of how the 3rd graders looked up to them.

We talked to that 7th grade student and it all got worked out. We reflected and tried to figure out what we could have done better but the reality is that with one hundred kids in the room, an issue was bound to come up.

It took a while to get over and accept the “bad” that happened in that mass rehearsal as just part of the process of working on this performance.  Sometimes rehearsals need to not go perfectly in order for better rehearsals to happen. Sometimes people need to step in puddles so that others can remind them of how to be good students. And sometimes our younger students need to see that older students while more mature in many ways, share the same struggles to behave respectfully.

As we strive to be better educators, sometimes we forget the positive that comes when things don’t go perfectly. Some of the most important life lessons happen when students misbehave and some of the most important decisions are made through embracing the tension of disagreements between teachers.

We have got to be self-critical and strive to create the best learning environments for our students and be self-reflective when issues come up. At the same time we need to embrace issues, frustrations and conflicts that arise as inevitable and as parts of a students' experience. This is a very tough thing to do, that I still struggle with, but this is what teaching is and this is the gig I chose.

If your idea of a perfect day as a teacher or a perfect event with students doesn’t include any unexpected issues, then you are in the wrong profession. Teachers don’t strive for everything going right, we work for our students to help them learn how to be better humans beings and that can’t happen if everything goes “right.” And anyways, if teaching was filled with “perfect” days, I’d quit from boredom. It’s the downs along with the ups that makes this job so much fun.

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