- I want to keep getting better
- I know that I won’t ever be fully satisfied with my class / space
- I’m okay with that, because I know I set the bar too high for myself
Sometimes growth is small and subtle and doesn’t look all that impressive in the moment.
I had an interesting conversation on Twitter about the growth mindset and the expectations we have. In the course of the conversation, Karl (@LS_Karl is an insightful guy that often pushes my thinking) mentioned that he never settles for “good enough” and that he’s never satisfied. There are things that he said that really resonated with me:
It has me thinking about my own journey. While never settling is what keeps Karl fresh and excited as a teacher, the sense of never settling for “good enough” is a mindset that has caused me to slip into an unhealthy perfectionism.
When I was a brand new teacher, I didn’t settle for “good enough.” I was always changing everything. All things needed tweaking if not a complete overhaul. I found myself talking often about high expectations for myself and for students. I wasn’t satisfied with the work I had done, because it didn’t fit the ideal that I was going for. On some level, this led to growth. It led to better results. But it also meant I wasn’t able to let myself fail. It meant I grew risk averse. I had this dream idea of what my classroom would be and every time I missed it, I worked twice as hard to fix the situation.
I hit a point where I had to step back and say, “I need to be okay with where I am before I improve.” I needed to find “good enough.” This sounds counterintuitive, but I needed affirmation. I need encouragement. I didn’t need to be pushed. I didn’t need to be challenged. I needed a message (if even from myself) that I would okay as a teacher. This dream classroom with a bar set away above my head would never be a reality and I came to the conclusion that the messy, mistake-ridden reality of my classroom community wasn’t such a bad thing.
Look, there are things I need to overhaul in my practice. Big steps I still need to take. I’m okay with it, because I’m firm in my identity as a good teacher. There are small things that I need to tweak. I’m good with that, because I’m good enough as a teacher. There are great things that I want to leave alone, because I do a great job at them and I’m not touching what’s working well.
I guess my new process is to make reasonable goals, celebrate success often, build on my strengths, focus on my weaknesses, get help when a weakness becomes a liability and do my best to teach humbly, knowing that perfection isn’t the goal.
This is why I struggle with any conversation that begins with “teachers should . . .” unless the rest of the sentence is anything other than “do their best to care about students and teach well.” It’s why I get tired of platitudes and bold statements about innovation and TED Talks about the ideal classroom.
I won’t grow into a better teacher unless I can begin with “good enough.”