Teaching is a journey. I’ve known this to be true for a long time, but that truth hit even closer to home recently. My best friend and I started teaching around the same time frame. I’ve always known she was a good teacher, but I’m not sure she always believes in herself. I, on the other hand, have always felt like teaching came naturally.
Please stop comparing yourself to other teachers. We are all at our own place on this teaching journey. We each have different personalities, students, personal expectations, district/school expectations, and much more that play into what we can do in our classrooms.
Here’s the tale of two teachers – their similarities, differences, struggles, and successes.
I struggled with it for about a week, then I realized something HAD to change. My friend? It took her about three years to get it figured out. Even now she questions herself more than I think she needs to. I see a strong, confident teacher – but she’s often super worried and self conscious about what she could be doing better. Trying to remind her that teaching is a journey and that we are all on different paths is easy to say, but she has to learn to trust herself.
I had a routine down that made lesson planning look pretty easy and painless (at least in my eyes). In about two hours, I could start and get everything planned for the next week – including adding the standards in. Everything had a system and a reason. It wasn’t always perfect, but it worked for me. My friend? She can still spend 4-6 hours a week lesson planning now that she’s in her seventh year. Sometimes it breaks my heart to hear how much she works, but I know she pours her heart and soul into those kids.
Those of you who are long-time readers know I’ve taught everything from Kindergarten to sixth grade. (Heck, I even worked at a preschool during college!) My friend teaches primarily high school and some junior high. Relationships with students have always come easily to me. I’m strict, but fair. I’m friendly, but not a friend. My friend hasn’t always had it so easy. She’s struggled with saying the right things at the right time. I’m sure some of that has to do with the age of her students. However, I know she is highly respected by the students. Yes, they occasionally make fun of her for the things she says or does (what can I say – she can be a bit goofy), but they ultimate like and respect her.
Many have called me the documentation queen, and based on this blog post – I might have to agree. My friend is equally good at this, if not better! She keeps every test her students do until at least one month after the end of the semester or year. She’s had parents come in questioning a grade, and she can show them exactly what their child did.
Teaching elementary and high school typically have different realms when it comes to parent communication. However, my friend always keeps a good rapport with parents. She is one of the few high school teachers I know who goes out of her way to contact a parent when needed. She doesn’t just let the grade blindside a parent at the end of the quarter or semester. She’s been known to receive calls, texts, and e-mails late into the evening to take care of both her classroom and coaching duties.
This is an area where I was taught during student teaching not to get behind. However, that hasn’t always been the case for me. Sometimes I can get up to a week behind, and I hate that because it means my students aren’t getting the immediate feedback they deserve. My friend, however, is GREAT at keeping up with grading. Students know within 48 hours they are going to have work back, but often even sooner. Even if she has to go in at 6:30am to get it all taken care of, she does. I have to admit I’m a little jealous.
Joy for the job
This is the one area I can say without a doubt my friend has covered so much better than I do. She LOVES her job! She knows that teaching is a journey, and she enjoys it every single day. There is maybe one complaint for every nine positives said. And that’s MAYBE one complaint! She doesn’t let the negativity about teaching get to her. She’s sees herself in education for another 30 years. She’s positive and the ultimate epitomy of what #HappyClassrooms look like! I’m honestly jealous that she is able to let all the negativity – testing, more mandates, more testing, new evaluation systems, and much more – not get to her. She’s to be commended for this!
We are all at different points in our teaching journey, and that’s perfectly ok! We are going to have good years, bad years, and ok years. As long as we are giving our students the best we can at the time, working hard, covering what needs to be covered, and helping raise the next generation to be kind and caring – there’s no much else anyone can ask of us.