I am a Christian, and I attend church regularly. My pastor is someone I’ve known for years as he’s moved to serve different churches and he gives great sermons. One tidbit I wrote down that may or may not be a direct quote was, “Stop trying to be great and try to be faithful.” He was speaking in reference to how to be a Christian – be faithful and just keep trying, but when I heard it…it resonated with me as a teacher. Demands on teachers are so high. Honestly, I just need to remember to try. Being great feels out of reach some days.
Here are a few scenarios where I’m trying to be faithful instead of being great:
I keep thinking I need to do better planning my guided reading groups. I am trying to get the perfect level for students, plan a better lesson, use all the resources I have, prep it ahead of time, etc. But more importantly, I just need to do it. Some of my best lessons are just reading a book and responding to student needs in the moment.
Primary grades at my school use Fundations by Wilson. Some days I can’t get through the whole lesson or I need to rearrange things. I’ve had to write sub plans for this several times recently and it’s hard to leave a program that required intense training for someone else to do. It’s not as important that it’s perfectly done by a sub, though. It’s also not worrisome if I need to rearrange some lessons. It’s more important that I do it and pick which parts can be done by someone else. It’s also more important that I keep moving through the units than that I force artificial deadlines.
I don’t need to be perfect at classroom management. It’s okay if I sometimes make the wrong call. I can be faithful and consistent as much as possible, though. I can just keep offering breaks; I can be faithful with my relationships with students. I can be consistent in my responses to be fair to students. I may not be perfect and know all the right things all the time, but I can be faithful to my philosophy.
I am naturally a bit of a perfectionist. I have high expectations of myself…in every aspect of my life.
But…I know that it’s more important to TRY and just BE FAITHFUL to my beliefs about HOW I want to show up in the world than it is to be “great.”
One thing at a time…
One of my philosophies about teaching is to get good at one thing at a time. You can do all of the necessary parts of teaching everyday, but it’s really hard to do them all well! I have been teaching for 10 years, and every year I set a goal on what I want to get better at. Here are the goals I remember I’ve worked on:
- Keeping a minilesson short, focused, and well managed
- Strategy lessons in reading
- Science labs
- Project Based Learning
- Guided Reading
- Phonics Instruction
- Book Clubs
- Math Small Groups
I did all of those things every year, but I wasn’t fully successful at each of those things each year. I had good moments and good days and good units, but allowing myself to say…I am just going to keep doing reading and writing conferences and do those faithfully…next year I will be able to learn more about how to do those better. I fully believe that teaching is one of the most complicated professions with an enormous amount of depth. Each year, you can become better at different aspects of teaching. You can be faithful towards your goals; you don’t have to be great at it all yet.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden
The idea behind being faithful is similar. You don’t have to be great. You don’t have to do all the right things at the right time and in the right ways. There honestly is just too much that goes into teaching to be amazing at it all. All of the pieces? All of the time? You can be amazing some of the time and in some of the ways; there is always room for growth, and that is something to celebrate, not something to be ashamed of.
The fact that you can be faithful to teaching amidst all of the challenges is what makes you amazing.