Happy Teacher Appreciation Day:
Celebrate Your Imperfection!
I’ve been out of the classroom for 12 years now. But, just two weeks ago, I had a moment every teacher lives for. A moment that defines the very reason we choose this vocation.
It was a return on an investment I made 15 years ago.
Luke, a former third-grade student, messaged me on Facebook. “Good news, I’m now employed full time as an engineer. Gotta thank my 3rd grade teacher.”
Wow. All of those years and days and hours and worries and frustrations… for a 16-word message, 15 years later.
Was it all worth it?
As teachers, we make the choice to dedicate our lives to our students. We certainly don’t chose this line of work for the paycheck! We don’t even ask for a lot of appreciation. (Just a little.)
Teaching is not a profession… it’s a vocation. It’s a way of life. It’s a cause burned deep in our hearts. It impacts every cell of our being.
And most days, we wonder if it’s all worth it. Because most days, we come home with a bag full of papers to grade. A certain student weighing heavy on our mind. Another student weighing heavy on our patience. A long list of objectives we have to meet, that once again, we didn’t get through today. A parent that’s impossible to please. An administrator passing down more paperwork.
Buried under all of that pressure, it’s nearly impossible to think about the ROI we might get 15 years later. Heck, we’re not even sure we can make it through the next 15 minutes!
Today, Teacher Appreciation Day, is a day to recognize you for sticking with it. For getting up each morning and bringing your best to school each day. Even on days when you know you aren’t at your best… you still bring the best you’ve got at that moment in time. You trudge through the lessons and the paperwork. You smile at the students who tests your patience. And you keep moving forward, trying to do better.
One of my grad-school professors once made a striking comment; it resonated deeply for me. “I’m convinced that a good teacher is a ‘self-abuser’ teacher.” (Read the full story here.) He meant that good teachers are never satisfied with themselves. They are always pushing, always trying to do more. Do better. Be better at connecting with their students.
To some extent, he’s right. Complacency will never get us very far. Perhaps we need that grit of dis-satisfaction to motivate us.
But, I’d also like to remind you of the 80/20 principle. 80/20 is a law of the universe that says you –as one teacher, in one classroom, with a finite set of time and resources– cannot achieve perfection. It’s impossible. Mathematically and physically impossible. (Learn why, here.)
What you need to do is recognize yourself for the “80%” successes you have each day. (I know, easier said than done.) As you commute home each day, take a moment to think of 3-5 things you did well that day, or that went well for you.
This practice won’t insulate you from the worry about your beloved students. It won’t quiet your students down so you can squeeze in another objective. It won’t grade your papers. And it won’t stop the avalanche of paperwork coming down from on-high.
But, it will connect you with your WHY… the reason you chose this vocation. Because, as the 80/20 principle also says, a few minutes a day of connecting to the positives can have a major impact against all of the negatives.
Meanwhile, please allow me to thank you for all of your efforts. If you’ve read this far, this message is about YOU. Thank you for being a SOAR® subscriber and allowing me to join you on your journey.
Most of all, thank you for putting your heart and soul into your students.
P.S. Thank you, Luke, for remembering your 3rd grade teacher. And, congratulations… Chrysler is so lucky to have you!
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