For eight years I have been sharing my thoughts on this blog.
Eight years of good.
Eight years of not so good.
Eight years of simply needing to get it out so that my brain could process whatever it was and move on.
Eight years of trying to be more than I was. And so there is something that still needs to be said, that has been driving me crazy for a long, long time. That makes me feel like a fraud, like a charlatan teacher who probably doesn’t really have the right to share anything about how anyone else should teach. What no one ever told me before I became a teacher was how there would be this unbelievable pressure to be an amazing teacher. To be the kind of teacher that truly changes lives. To create the type of environment that students cannot wait to be a part of. What no one ever told me before I became a teacher was how much social media would lead me to believe that I was doing it all wrong, most of the time, because my students are not those students that love school.
It is fed by the statements that surround us as teachers…
“If they didn’t have to be there, would they really show up?”
“Students should be running into your classroom not running away…”
“If they don’t love it, then you are doing it wrong…”
And while I get the sentiment behind these statements, I also think of the danger of them. The unattainable versions of reality that really none of us can ever live up to. These notions of creating such over the top unforgettable classroom experiences that make kids want to run into our schools, choosing us and our classroom above everything else. Every. Single. Day. Who can live up to that?
For ten and a half years, I have chased the mirage of being a perfect teacher. Of being the type of teacher that created those types of experiences that would make students flock to our classroom. That would make students want to come to school. And while there have been days where it almost felt like that, I have never achieved it, because let’s face it, it is a completely unrealistic notion. And it is a notion that are driving teachers to feel as if no matter what they do, no matter how hard they work, they will never be enough. They will always be lacking. How exhausting and debilitating is that?
So I am going to give it to you real straight because that’s what I always try to do; most of my 7th graders would probably rather hang out with each other than walk through our door. Most of my 7th graders would not run into our classroom if given the choice. They would probably rather sleep, watch Youtube, or simply hang out.
And I am okay with that.
Because that’s normal development. Because it is okay for our classroom to be low on their choice of experiences. Because it is okay for our classroom to not be something they think about when not in school. Because it is okay for kids to not be excited about the idea of going to school.
What is not okay is for them to hate it once they do get in our rooms. There is a big difference.
And so that is where we do the work. To create experiences that make students want to engage with our learning. That makes students feel as if they matter once they are there. That makes the time fly, the minutes pass until the next class, where they can hopefully experience that again.
So while most of my students would probably not volunteer to come to our classroom, once they are there, many of them love it. Many of them love what we do, who we are, and how we grow. Many of them would choose to stay once there. And to me, that is what matters.
So the next time you hear someone state, “But would they choose to come?” It’s okay to say, “Probably not” and not feel like a horrible teacher because what you realized is that the question was wrong all along, not you. Because what you realized is that you can teach your heart out and still have a hard time competing with everything that surrounds young people these days. Because what you realized is that the question should have been, “If given the choice would they choose to stay?”
And to that I can honestly answer, “Yes, most of the time they would…”
It turns out that perhaps I never needed to be a perfect teacher, I just needed to be real.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.