In my recent interactions with educators virtually and face to face, three “D” words have come up way too often.
DEFEAT . DISCOURAGEMENT . DOUBT
These words cross all grade levels and subject areas, afflicting new and veteran teachers. In this amazing world of being connected we have a waterfall of ideas cascading down on us continuously. The possibilities for creating amazing learning experiences in our classroom are endless. However, too often those possibilities paralyze rather than free us. Instead of feeling invigorated by all that we could do, inadequacy overcomes us and we get flooded with defeat, discouragement, and doubt. We see the "picture perfect" classrooms rather than the messy, real learning that actually takes place. We begin to think that making learning magical is only possible for the “”Mary Poppins” teachers, those that are practically perfect in every way.
I hate to break it to you all, but I’m far from perfect. Learning IS messy. I may take pretty pictures of my students’ food and the magic moments that happen, but the truth is there are a lot of misfires that lead up to them. There are days when I feel inadequate too as I look at all of the amazing educators out there in the world. But this is what I have learned. I have a choice every day to create an environment where my students are immersed and empowered. It may not be perfect, I may fail, it may be messy, I may not be ready to try the new innovative strategy or digital tool that my friend across the United States or hall is integrating, but I’m going to bring my own magic.
You, my friends, have a magic all your own. Don’t compare yourself to the teacher across the hall, country, or globe. They have found a magic that works for them, but I bet there is a lot of mess behind their magic too. They are human just like you and I are. Next time you are scrolling social media or chatting in the teacher workroom, don’t let yourself be overcome with inadequacy, but instead allow yourself to appreciate the uniqueness of the educators you encounter. Something extraordinary happens when you stop peering in the “picture perfect” windows that we scroll or walk past, and actually start engaging in conversations with the educators that created them. Before long we realize that they face the same struggles as us and are real people too. We learn more about their story and the road they have taken to get there. As we get to know these educators that we admire (or envy) as people, our feelings of inadequacy shift and we become inspired to make incremental changes in our own practice. Don't allow discouragement, doubt, and defeat to creep in. Instead, file away the ideas you want to try and leave the ones you don’t. With your own special flair, introduce new ideas as you are ready and little by little your classroom will begin to transform into a space that holds a special magic unique to you and your students.
It’s also important to realize that what may seem ordinary or obvious in our own practice may be amazing to someone else. The teaching strategies that we put into practice day after day, become routine and we forget that our "obvious" may be a groundbreaking idea or pivotal shift in someone else’s practice. When we begin opening up our doors and start sharing our classroom experiences we can make a positive impact on someone else’s journey. As others start to engage with us, they will also realize that there is lots of “real” in our story that is far from perfect. One of my favorite videos to share is "Obvious to you. Amazing to Others" by Derek Sivers. (I've attached it below.)
So next time you walk past the “Mary Poppins” classroom or scroll past the “picture perfect” idea, kick the doubt, discouragement, and defeat to the curb and remember….you hold the magic. Go make it happen!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.