It is November. You have been working so hard this year: loving on kids who might not get that attention and high expectations from anyone else.
I know that you feel discouraged, and like you are not making a difference. I know that you have just received a disappointing appraisal. And your appraiser’s comments go against everything that you have learned about teaching multilingual students. Your appraiser told you: less small group conversation, instead instruct the whole group and lead from the front. I wanted to remind you that appraisers are themselves human, and sometimes new at their roles. They are trying to help you the best that they can, but they, themselves, are not always proficient in best practices for teaching multilingual learners. Not all feedback is good, but what is always good is a posture of humility: what can we learn from this person or situation?
I know you feel the push of expectations from the administration. And with one hand, your leaders tell you: “Practice self-care,” but at the same time they say: “make sure to document your exchange hours,” and “You need to do these specific lessons in preparation for our state assessment,” “please use our new software to monitor student progress,” and, “be sure to be on time to our LONG faculty meetings.” I know that all of these things are falling hard on you because you are a perfectionist about your teaching practice.
I’m sure you feel overwhelmed by all of these pressures, expectations, and distractions. I know that you often don’t feel seen for all that you are doing. And you wonder why other teachers seem to skate by doing so much less than you. Yet, you have a choice.
You are doing great work. You are advocating for students who - without your presence in their lives - would be pushed to the margins. Perhaps they are told in other places that they do not matter. Perhaps they feel that their voices, their language, their culture, and their presence is not important. You are saying that it is. You are reversing long streams of colonialism buried deep in our country's fibers. You are working against the grain of all that would pull down these students and discourage them. And for this reason, you cannot allow all of the other junk and pressures in the teaching profession to get you down. Do not get weary of doing good.
You must show up fresh, energized, and new for these students. And to do so, you may have to let some things go. Is it making the lessons really cute and beautifully designed? Is it trying to do all of the things for everyone? Is there a way that you could “reverse engineer” your schedule? This year my principal introduced the phrase: ‘strategically abandon.” I love that phrase because it means being intentional about what you are going to let go of to focus on the main thing. For me, I need to “strategically abandon” managing others’ expectations of me, and just do what I know I must: advocate for our students.
What do you need to strategically abandon today, so that you can be “okay” for them?
Here’s one I can help you with: you need to strategically abandon that appraisal, and not connect it with your identity. You are not a “proficient’ teacher - you are extraordinary!
I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from amazing heroes in education - in Texas, Honduras, California, and all over the United States!