I READ SOMEWHERE that the average teacher makes about 1500 decisions a day which works out to be about 4 decisions a minute. It would be no suprise then, that sometimes one or two of those decisions are the wrong ones. Sometimes I come down to harshly on a student who needs grace and understanding, and sometimes I provide a 2nd or 4th chance when what they really need is for me to hold them to the line. It is complicated.
When I was a new and young teacher, I would be deeply pained by my mistakes. I would try to ignore them, but over time, I've come to see the power in apologizing whenever necessary. If I've been particularly fractious with my students, I apologize. "I'm sorry guys. I think I need to start over." Sometimes this results in a stunned class who can't seem to wrap their brain around an adult apologizing to them, and sometimes it results in them laughing. Either way, it generally shifts the mood of the class.
My last class of the day is a challenge, and not just because it is at the end of the day. It's filled with great kids, who are struggling with the idea of what makes someone intelligent. They are trapped into the lie that only kids who learn things quickly or get the best grades are smart. The best decision that I can make every single minute is to reinforce the idea that learning takes time.
Did you ever read Tuesdays with Morrie? I loved one of the stories he told. He was teaching an object lesson about what makes things strong. He took an ax to a watermellon, and then to an oak tree stump. The ax sliced quickly through the watermellon (spoiler alert), but it took repeated and determined strikes to cut through the oak. "Things that take a long time to grow are stronger." He told his class. I've done the same thing with my classes from time to time. They LOVE watching me destroy that watermellon, but I hope they haven't missed why I'm showing it to them. If things you are trying to do are hard-fought, they will bring you so much satisfaction and value.
I was a little down after my last class today. I still have that cold, and I felt like I could've done better, and then I knew I still had to lead my afterschool leadership class. I was kind of beat. I was leary of my leadership class because it is only our 3rd meeting and sometimes in the beginning, before the begin to jell together as a team, it can be chaotic and frustrating. But I'll tell you what, this kids keep defying my expectations. They are energetic, eager, and have some really great leadership qualities already. I'm pretty excited to see what we accomplish this year. I walked out of my classroom tonight at five and said out loud, "Man those kids are giving me life." My throat still hurts, and my head is still congested, and I still have things to work out with my last class of the day, but the joy and enthusiasum of my leadership kids reminded me that people can surprise you.
Tomorrow is day 17 of our school year, and I'm trying to lean in and really make each day count. I don't want my students to experience any wasted minutes. I'm reminding myself that things that take a long time to grow are strong - strong enough to withstand whatever comes their way.
Keep moving forward,