being a teacher

Good Enough

My name is Pernille.  This is my 11th year of teaching.  5th year of teaching 7th grade English.  And I don’t think I have ever worked harder in my life than this year.

You may be feeling the same way.

I am not sure why this is the case.  Perhaps for me, it is the change to 90-minute blocks.  Perhaps it is the incredible needs that seem to be present this year.  Perhaps it is the urgency with which we teach every year because we know that this year can be the difference between a child loving school or checking out.  Between a child being a reader or writing it off.  Whatever it is, it seems to present itself as a neverending stream of work, a mountain we attempt to climb only to see our footsteps crumble behind us as we slide further down.

And so this is my very public reminder to myself that the work will never be done.  That every year we will be reminded that we wish we had had more time.  That we wish we had had more ideas.  More steps.  More moments of clarity where the learning became cemented in new ways.

This is my public reminder that we are only human.  That while we want to be everything for every child, we are also not alone.  We are surrounded by others who feel the urgency of the mission as much as we do and together we are stronger.  We don’t need to save anyone.  We need to teach.  We need to do the very best we can in the time that we have and then we need to stop.  Take a break.  Take a breath.  We cannot run a marathon all year, no one can.

So give yourself a break.  Do the work, do it with love, do your best, but then step away.  Realize that part of teaching is that there is always something waiting for us.  We are never truly done, there is always more to learn, practices to change, ideas to be given, but at some point, we have to say, “Good enough.”  And then the next day, we start again.

My name is Pernille, I love my job, I love teaching, I am doing the best I can with what I have and for right now, that is good enough.





20 thoughts on “Good Enough”

  1. I’m in my 28th year of teaching 7/8/9th grades. I love my job and am working harder than ever. I’m trying to keep my boundaries strong, but usually I’m so tired after school each day I can do much more brain work until early the next morning. It’s good enough. I definitely worry about the new teachers and how quickly they will burn out. Some things really have to change.

  2. Love this, Pernille! As a 6th grade teacher (my 4th year in this grade but 26th year teaching) I recognize what a valuable message this is for all educators. I love how you articulated that we will never be done, there will always be something else to consider. And yes, we definitely need to just walk away each day confident that we have done all we could and tomorrow is another day! Thank you!

  3. Yes, I feel the same way this year. This is my 19th year teaching. I have spent most of my career as a 6th grade language arts teacher. I love my job! Thank you for the reminder that I am good enough. To continue to give and do my best for my students with the time I have but also to remember me.

  4. It took me years to understand that aiming for completion of every important task was crazy-making. So I typed the words GOOD ENOUGH and put this reminder in a small frame on my dresser. Later I put a note with the same phrase inside my desk drawer.
    To those who want 100% success at all times, “good enough” sounds like admitting defeat. But teachers dont have a “finish line.” Eventually I embraced this as true: What I do is GOOD, and it is ENOUGH, so it is GOOD ENOUGH. Then I smiled.

  5. Funny I saw this post today, because recently I’ve been thinking about joining Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Work Week PD Program to help keep my sanity. Has anyone done it? Thoughts? Here is link: Saw really great review on Math Equals Love blog and wondering if anyone else has done it.

  6. Kia Ora from Aotearoa New Zealand. We have similar overload issues here. I have had the privilege of teaching for 38 years and if nothing else I feel I’ve opened the world of books to the children I’ve taught. I read every day, cry and laugh along with my kiddos and firmly believe that sometimes a book should just be a book- no activities needed! We need to let ourselves and our learners love books for books sake!Absolutely adored Refugee as did my class and loving being involved in GRA! Rosemary.

  7. Pernille, I appreciate your honesty here. I think most of your educator readers will empathize with these challenges. Thank you for making it okay to be “good enough”.

  8. Pernille, this is my 24th year teaching, and my 9th year teaching 7th grade ELA. I think this year I have more of a balance than I ever have had. I think I’m learning how to leave more work at work, including the emotions that make me feel as if I’m not “good enough.” Thank you for this post, for I was in this state of mind just last year. I’ll bet I’ll be there again soon, and we ALL need this reminder!! I’ll put a link to this post in my “to do” list to look at again in October of 2019… 🙂 Enjoy that block of time – our 80 min is a dream compared to 40! Best, Joy

  9. Yes. All of this. It hits hardest twice per semester for me (November and March), but it is always there. I was told once it’s okay to be a “B+” teacher sometimes. Thanks for this reminder.

  10. My mom passed away a few weeks ago, and I actually took an entire week off for the first time in my twenty-two years teaching. I was only going to take a few days, so I could get back to my students, but then I realized I would be neglecting myself and my own needs.

    Self-care is something many of us neglect, yet if we don’t take down time for ourselves, we aren’t good enough because of the toll “all work and no play” takes. We have to be good enough for ourselves to be good enough for our students. While I’m not sure I’ll ever completely figure this out, I know that being my personal best involves knowing when to step away and accept “good enough,” so I can have a life outside of school, be present to family and friends, and practice self-care. And when I really think about it, that is better than good enough—that is truly my best!

  11. Thank you! This is my hardest year ever, thanks to a new course in a new discipline and a teaching load one class higher than usual. I’ve been struggling to keep my head above water and have been wearing myself out. I kept saying to myself, “I’ll get through this crunch and then slow down and take care of myself” … but I’m realizing that it will be a crunch all year long, so that plan is not going to work. Still haven’t figured out how I’m going to handle this hard year, but waiting to take care of myself until the work is done is definitely not going to do the trick.

  12. Thank you Pernille! I have been teaching for 33 years. I still feel the way that you do. I rework lessons, I try to reach each student, and I am amazed that after spending hours on Sunday getting ready, everything is not perfect Monday morning. I love my students and their energy and acceptance of my imperfections keeps me going. Your post is a critical reminder that our students depend on us to have full lives– to bring stories of experiences, to bring our healthiest selves, and to “be” with them- even when everything isn’t perfectly planned.

  13. To all my colleagues here: May you be happy; May you be well; May you be free from suffering; May you be at peace.
    I’m in my 25th year, and I love my job, but I do feel as if I’m being dragged behind a racing horse that is my to-do list. I’ll be done with my work for this year in June. Until then, I have to take care of myself for the long haul. I say no when I need to; I work as close to contract as possible.
    I also research and write about mindfulness and self-care. I’ve incorporated mindfulness practices in my high school ELA classes for 4 years. I’ve practiced for 30 years.
    Here are some practical ways we can care for ourselves so that we can make the long haul.
    Peace & Love.

  14. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about being “good enough.” I shared the link to this post with several people yesterday who in turn shared it again. It spoke to many who are feeling the same way the past few weeks, myself included. Again, thanks! 🙂

  15. Great post Pernille! It’s like a workout…to give it your all you have to step back between sets. At least, that’s what you have me thinking.

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