Often the advice to new teachers is to just survive your first year, learn more your second year, hone your craft your third year, then just get golden. Absorb all that knowledge. Keep learning, growing, expanding your resources. Build your toolbox! You’ll do great!
Now, I love sorting through resources. I can flip through a pacing guide, absorb the details, and create a project that meets those standards. Then, I can map it out in a 4-6 week calendar and stick to it. I did this my first year teaching with gusto. I had my daily focus planned for all content areas in August of this past year (go ahead and judge me). By this point, I now have lots of resources I could go to. I have workbooks and worksheets galore. I can look through endless spreadsheets of project ideas. My district gives an abundance of links in county documents. I listen to education podcasts almost daily. I enjoy reading ideas online and in books. I obsessively read Facebook teacher group posts, and Instagram is pretty.
So what’s the problem?
There’s too much good stuff.
There’s just too much. And it’s good. The number of good ideas I come across on a daily basis is kind of amazing. Right now, the internet is flooded with ideas for online/distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a zillion places to read. Tech companies have opened things up for free. Anything that I steered away from because of money is now at my fingertips! My team and I just sent parents a 3 page document of ideas. 3 pages! And we curated that down! One of the documents we linked to was 70 pages. 70 pages of math problems. Now, I’m not going to lie, some of those math problems were not great stuff, as in they were not high quality, enriching math tasks that required logical thinking and discussion. They just were practice problems you could do by yourself – which parents wanted. We offered a small slice of options to families, and I still am left thinking, was that too much? Am I shifting that burden of decision making?
Curation is exhausting. Sifting through resources and making decisions is exhausting. Add in making decisions with other people? Compromising? Getting more ideas and then reading about those ideas and then deciding what’s better and then figuring out what we’re allowed to do and then weighing the benefits of different options? Once again, with other people? Ugh, I don’t want to do it.
It’s work to do things well, and if I’m not going to do it well, I often opt out. I’m the type of person who wants to get it right the first time. I didn’t talk until I was 2, and then I started talking in complete sentences. My dad jokes that I wanted to make sure I had it right before I started. That’s what I do. I read, listen, read more, test to understand, then dive in deep.
There are many things I have passed up as a teacher because I didn’t think I could do it well. Here are a few:
- Socratic Seminars
- I love the idea. I respect the research. I encourage discussion in my class, teach sentence starters, do lots of small group facilitation through book clubs, but whole class socratic seminars? Not once. Everything I read says that the first couple times are rough; everyone is quiet, and it’s difficult. No, thank you. I’ll stick to what I’m good at. I am sure some of you are thinking, “What?! You don’t even want to try it!” No. I don’t. If I taught high school, maybe.
- My math textbook
- I tried. It’s not worth it. There’s way too much to sort through. My students didn’t like it. The level of materials wasn’t appropriate. Everything was broken up into tiny pieces. The final straw for me was the whiteboard app – how about I just use actual whiteboards?
- Now, I do want to try this, but I haven’t. This is an example of something I want to get right before I do it, and I’m still absorbing some ideas. I also am choosing to not get worked up about it. If I get to it, great. If not, oh well.
- My short story unit
- Oh, how I loved teaching my short story unit! With the shift in pacing guides we had a couple years ago, I just couldn’t fit it in. I had to let it go if I wanted to embrace a new literary nonfiction picture book unit. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. I loved those lessons, but I can’t have everything.
- Most stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers
- I have found a few fantastic things on TpT, and I have my own store, but mostly, I pass. I don’t want to search through things. Browsing through the zillions of ideas is not helpful to me.
It’s time to say goodbye to some good things. If no one else is telling you, I’m telling you: It’s okay to pass up on good ideas. It’s okay to keep the lesson you love and not revamp it. It’s also okay to let go of that lesson you loved because it’s not serving you or your students. You can’t say yes to every good idea, every good resource, every project, every tech tool.
Curation is difficult, yes, but it’s necessary. And once you’ve found something, just use it. You don’t need to keep searching. I’m telling you that because it’s something I tell myself. I don’t need to keep searching. I can just decide, and it will be okay.
This time frame right now of trying to start teaching online is difficult for me. I want to avoid work. I want to jump ahead. I want to know what’s expected of me. I want to know which guidelines I can actually break. I want to do what’s best for my students, but what is that? Is it the 70 page packet of math problems? Not really. I don’t really believe that’s what’s best for them. I’m just trying to mitigate between no school and good school. Isn’t some better than none? I honestly don’t know. In terms of reading and writing, wholeheartedly yes! Everything else, I’m ambivalent. For the privileged, I hope my students learn more about fractions by baking some stuff with their parents. I hope they learn random skills. I hope they play card games. I hope their parents can let go of some good ideas and not feel guilty about it. For the ones I’m worried about, I hope they still get some time to read amid taking care of younger siblings and cousins. I hope they’re still all getting their meals and taking advantage of community resources. I hope they’re not feeling like this means they will fail when they get to middle school because they won’t be ready.
I hope that I can learn to let go.
It’s time to say goodbye to some good things.
And there are so many good things to say goodbye to.
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