I’m Overwhelmed and I Don’t Like It Anymore

by lclarcq on February 14th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Encouragment, Not So Good Days, The Teaching Profession

Dear Readers,

Eighteen years ago I wrote this post to the moretprs listserv. It is a response to a teacher named Teresa and it is somewhat personal, but at this time of the year, everything seems a bit personal. Or at least we take things personally…too little sun for many people, too little time for ourselves, giving too much to others. I’m sharing in case anyone here could use it:

I have read this several times Teresa…and can identify with everything you have said. My heart goes out to you. Teaching is cyclical. We all have moments of great joy and great frustration, enthusiasm..and yes..even boredom. We are subjected to cycles of professional interest…Madeleine Hunter, Mastery Learning…and professional change, department members , heads, administrators..and the like…..we experience years whenthe students make sense and connect..and others when we hope our children never turn out like that..and wonder if we are older than we feel….Life also…moves ahead on its own cycle.

Those of us who started teaching young, and fresh out of college, jumped in with nothing else to distract us. We happily took on those jobs we were told “came with the position”, be they coaching, student council, advisorships, etc. We felt privileged to be asked. (A lovely but naive thought :o)) We saw them as wonderful opportunities to bond with students and become a part of the school and community. Teaching was our life!!! And then Life creeps in: spouses, children, mortgages, family crisises, parents’ illnesses…perhaps our own. With as many joys and sorrows as our teaching life…but all drawing on the same emotional account. And for some reason, here we are 7, 12, 18 years later, wondering why we have become exhausted and jaded. Why we don’t feel like we are good at anything….teaching,counseling, advising, parenting,bill-paying,house-cleaning,exercising,friendships, relationships, or…anything. And how could we be? Why should we feel we have to be?

My personal life has taken a turn in the past two years which has hadin irreversible effect on my teaching. On one hand, I have not been as”effective” in many areas as I once was…or hope to be again. (parental contact, correcting, professional committees, advising etc.) On the other hand…in letting go of some things I thought were “essential”, I have found areas of greater depth of focus than I ever thought possible. Yes, my teaching has had a much different effect on my students…and a better one in many ways. Without going into anything personal , let me share the insights I have received. They have come from my own thoughts and perceptions, and also those of my students, their parents, my colleagues,and friends. Maybe you will find some inspiration in them as I did.

A) CONTRARY TO PUBLIC OPINION, WE ARE NOT WHAT WE DO.

This is a myth. Perpetuated by overachievers and carried on by those of us with a great
capacity for guilt. Your worth is not determined by the number of activities you advise, the amount of papers you correct, nor even the hours you devote to your job.

B )WE ARE WHAT WE SHARE.

We are…Language lovers. Caregivers. Thinkers. Motivators. Inspirers. Mentors. Instructors. Partners. Organizers. Creative geniuses. Laugh-makers. Leaders. Team-members. Mind-openers. Confidence-builders. That is who we are. THAT IS WHO YOU ARE. Very valuable…in this profession and in this world.

C) THE JOB GOES TO ONE WHO SAYS YES.

It has taken me 18 years of teaching…and a good many years of involuntary volunteerism before that to figure this out. Sometimes not saying no = saying yes.

D) IF I DON’T SAY YES THEY WILL FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL.

Say this to yourself over and over again until it starts to sound believable. They (the
powers that be and your own conscience) will tell you otherwise. Look around at all the other people who are not doing what you do. They said no. Look at all you do. You said yes. If you say no, someone will step up to fill the vacuum, in many cases. Saying yes does not make you better. It makes you busier. …and sometimes makes you bitter.

E)YOUR VERY NATURE WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO BE A BAD TEACHER.

If you are a good teacher by nature and by practice, you will continue to be one. You
might be a DIFFERENT KIND of good teacher than you were 5 years ago or 5 years from now….but your knowledge, skill, caring, and love will always make you a good teacher.

F) YOU WILL EARN AS MUCH RESPECT FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES AS YOU WILL FOR TRYING TO DO IT ALL.

I did not know this. I still have to remind myself of it often. And even better, you will have something of yourself left at the end of the day.

G) IT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA TO PUT OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN BEFORE YOUR OWN.

We have all seen it happen. The ideal teacher or principal. The award-winning coach. With no connection to their own. The older my children are (now 7 and 9) (additional note…they are now 25 and 27!!!) the more I see the truth in this.

H) YOU ARE TEACHING BY EXAMPLE.

I have seniors who we refer to as “serial joiners”. They have signed up for every club, activity and sport available. Some are near the nervous breakdown stage. Others have eating disorders. Must do everything. Perfectly if possible. I was one, can still be one if I am not careful. I don’t think it is healthy for them. I want them to learn to set priorities and manage time. Find balance. I cannot do that if I show them…by example…that I think a good person is one who does everything and does it well come hell or high water. If I only love myself as an overachiever , how can I convince them that they have great worth for who they are…not the number of items they accomplish in one day?

I) CAN I BE GRATEFUL ABOUT THIS…OR JUST RESENTFUL?

This is the test I have been using to decide whether to say yes or no. If I can be
grateful…it is worth considering. If I will only feel resentful (regardless of how good an idea it is or no matter how important it is to someone else!!!!!!!!!!!) I must seriously consider whether it is worth the time and energy involved.

J) NOT EVERYTHING MUST BE DONE RIGHT NOW.

I have a great list of great ideas. I take comfort in the fact that someday I will do most of them(or get someone else to !!) I am learning to wait to get them accomplished… Everything in its own time.

If you have made it to the end of this ramble…thanks for sticking with me….it was probably more helpful for me to write it to myself than for you to read it!! :o) Teresa, your discomfort and frustration right now are a healthy sign that you are ready to grow. Good things are coming your way personally and professionally. But you may have to let go of some things to
make room for them in your life. It may be an attitude, an outlook, or a responsibility. For some teachers it has even meant a change in position, to another facet of teaching, or a position in another district. For others, just a shift in their approach to each day’s work. I understand how you feel. My friends who are reading this will tell you I have been there and still find myself there many days. It is part of the midpoint in the teaching cycle…who knows…maybe any point in the cycle. But the cycle will continue…I wish you peace and joy with your life and your profession as you go. And strange as it may seem, the discomfort and
frustration may just bring you what you really want and need. Keep your eyes and heart open.

with love,
Laurie

Skip Crosby Delivers From The Heart

by lclarcq on August 18th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Starting The Year, The Teaching Profession

Skip Crosby is a wonderful friend and amazing educator from Maine. Earlier this month he gave a speech to several hundred teachers in his state. Below is a slightly-modified version of that speech. I am honored to share it with you with his permission:

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/08/10/uncategorized/how-maine-foreign-language-teachers-can-gain-relevance/

We’ve All Been There

by lclarcq on February 8th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, The Teaching Profession

This is a letter to a friend who is struggling this year with a small, but powerful, group of students. This group, and their equally vocal parents, are leading a “complain campaign” against the teacher. What is the problem? The teacher is working to create an environment where all students can be successful, where all students are capable of making progress and where all students, at the very least, allow their classmates to grow and to thrive. (Although ideally they would encourage each other.)

There is a group of students, encouraged by parents, who feel that this is not appropriate. They have been very successful in other classes by being “better” than other students. They do not understand, nor like, being part of a paradigm in which every student has value.

Are they saying this out loud? Not exactly. They are saying that the teacher’s methods are ineffective. But their meaning is clear. It is troublesome. It is exhausting. It has turned into a “me vs. them” scenario for the teacher. The students and parents are attacking the integrity of the teacher. Even though, all of the students, INCLUDING THOSE COMPLAINING, are doing very well.

We have all been there. Too many of us are there every day. (and right now, because the profession is being targeted, it is particularly painful!) When this happens we feel as if we are walking on eggshells, not even really knowing what we are doing wrong and certainly not sure how to fix it. What we want is for it to just get better. To get a do over with a group of kids. To make it go away.

So this teacher asked me, “What can I do?” And this is my answer. I asked the teacher if I could share it just in case there is another teacher out there, in another district, with other students, but feeling the same way. The teacher graciously agreed. Please remember that this is just a collection of my thoughts, certainly no definitive answer to anyone’s problems. But as our colleague Bryce Hedstrom often says, “We are all in this together.”

From time to time there are students that clarify our work for us. This seems
to be one of those groups for you.

For perspective:

These students are a product of their environment, which you clearly understand. At their age they have not had enough experiences to think differently. They are also savvy enough to know when agreeing with the status quo is in their best interest…and this is benefiting them …..in their minds….so they are perpetuating this. What you also understand is that this is NOT in their best interest, now or in the future. But you will not convince them of that, nor their parents. This is an insight that (as the word implies) must come from within..and in its own time. But….I PROMISE you that many of these students will come to see this in time. Many. I can only make this promise because I see and hear from many former students (and by now I have well over 3000 of them!!). I am constantly amazed at how they mature (many of them when they have their own children) and come to appreciate the messages I tried to include in my teaching when they were teenagers.

If you can, when you can, step back and stay out of their circle of thinking. They will graduate and move on. It feels as if these attitudes will forever prevail, but they will not. Often an entire school will change when one group of negativity graduates. I have seen it happen many times. Remember that while it seems as if their behavior stems from a need for power, that nee for power ultimately stems from a place of fear. Fear can only be overcome with love and/or knowledge. You offer these things. You will never be able to control when/if they will be ready to hear the message. Again, that will have to come from within these individuals.

In the meantime, you are offering hope, faith and love to students who do not have it. That is life-changing…for you and for them. If this is what calls you, follow it. Follow it as far as you are able. It connects you to a greater community than the little power-hungry social group can ever be a part of. I am grateful every day to be a part of that. I am grateful every day for the others that are doing the same.

For reality:
It’s tough dealing with these kids, and worse when they have formed a group with parental backing. Very tough. Exhausting. Soul-crushing even. I’m so thankful that you have administrative support. What a gift!!!! The truth is that you really must be shifting the status quo. You know that you are doing an amazing job of that when the folks who have been “in charge” really want to find fault with you. That is not fun, but it is their FEAR talking. They want to accuse you of not doing your job because they feel that you are threatening their “way of life.’ I know that you are not trying to ‘take down” a social group, just love and teach kids. It’s annoying and frustrating to be accused of something you would not do/be. Just because they say it doesn’t mean that it is true and it doesn’t mean that others will believe it, even if those that believe in you don’t stand up for you.

I know a number of other teachers who have been, or are, where you are. Some saw the culture change. Some have accepted that they are fighting an uphill battle and simply try to stay under the radar. Some move to other districts where they are not alone in their support of equal education for all.

Eventually you will have to make one of these decisions, or your own. You will know when it is time.

In the meantime, I am going to ask you to try to do something that may seem very
difficult.

Do not try to win these students over. Do not try to heal this relationship. Right now, it is not a healthy relationship, it’s abusive. The recipient of the abuse will never be able to heal a relationship with an abuser. Only the abuser can do that ….and these students do not have the maturity, nor the desire, to do so.

Right now your job is to be a teacher, and in some ways, a parent to these students. Not a friend. It does not matter whether or not they like you if they only want you to do things their way. To truly love them, to truly be their teacher, you will have to continue to do what is in their best interest whether they approve or not.

There are several challenges to that.

1. They are in many ways, the “popular” kids. Choosing not to cater to their “popularity” will be confusing to many students, and to many adults. But it will set a precedent for others who will, in time, be able to follow it. You will be a role model in the truest sense of the word. Other students will see how to handle a bully without being bullied, without giving up your dignity.

2. You will have to find ways to honor these students OTHER THAN honoring their
popularity and social power. This may not be a challenge for you at all. But it may be a very different experience for them. They are only accustomed to receiving artificial kudos rather than sincere ones. Be patient if they reject your positive comments about participation, assisting others, offering insight, etc. It will confuse them. They may reject it. They may mock it. But they will hear it.

3. You will have to rise above emotions. Emotions are their weapon, their target, their currency. Particularly insecurity and hurt. Picture yourself and strong, kind, caring and too mature to be damaged by their game. “Rise Above” will become your mantra. IT IS NOT YOU they are attacking. IT IS NOT YOU. They know that there is a piece of each of us that is vulnerable to being left out, pointed out, isolated and humiliated. They know how to hurt. They have done it in the past. They have done it to avoid being hurt themselves. They may try to hurt you. Remember that you too are vulnerable, but that no child, even in a group, even supported by a parent, can determine your worth. You are caring, you feel called to provide an equal education for all, you believe that catering to this group is not what you are called to do.

It is not an easy road sometimes. That is why other teachers in your position
do not always stay the course.

EVERYTHING YOU FEEL IS JUSTIFIED. However you respond or react is whatever you
can do that day. Know that you are supported, no matter what happens. Do not expect perfection. You are human. This is hard.

Sadly, sometimes people put us up against a wall and we have to make a choice: do what they want or do what we want. IT SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. But sometimes it is.

What you won’t be able to do is turn students who are abusive into students who are not abusive in one day, one week, one month, or even, sadly, sometimes even in a school year. When they are ready for relationships with a balance of power, they will be willing to let you establish a better relationship.

“People can change. We can’t change people. We can only change ourselves.”

I don’t know where I heard/read this…but it has proven true over and over again.

If these students refuse to change, and that appears to be the case right now, you do have the ability to create a new relationship with them. A relationship where you respect them, but not their cruel behavior. A relationship where you appreciate their abilities to acquire language, to be citizens of the world, their potential to be leaders…but not their ability to ASSUME that they have inherited all of the knowledge about how these things happen.

What does that look like? That will be yours to decide. Perhaps you offer those students an option that is more to their “liking” to do quietly in a corner of the room. Perhaps that traditional “work” that they believe is so vital, but in the library where they won’t be disturbed by the work that you and your willing students are doing going on in the room. (All of this of course with the approval of your department chair and administration) Perhaps you only give these “learning” opportunities as extra credit for those extra-motivated-to-excel-on-paper
individuals. Perhaps they get a particular classroom responsibility that singles them out for responsibility and makes them feel recognized and honored, but doesn’t take away from instruction. Choices like this can be brainstormed with like-minded colleagues.

It may also mean that you include ways to recognize all students, including these kids. Clipping articles from the local paper and placing them on a bulletin board. Posting lists of the high honor roll. Congratulating scholarship recipients, Eagle Scouts, athletic accomplishments, getting a new job, the list could go on and on.

Whatever happens, have faith. You are making a difference. You already have. Above all remember…This too shall pass and you are NOT alone. It might not feel like it …but it’s true.

Hugs and love and support.

Laurie

Teacher Vulnerablity Archived Post 12.13.10

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Encouragment, Relationships, Teacher Training, The Teaching Profession, TPRS techniques

Originally posted 12/13/10 For more insight on Vulnerability consider watching this :

The second idea that has been following me today is this: We are all insecure. All of us. We generally choose to handle it one of two ways:
a) Active, decisive, “strong” behaviors designed to give us the power to create an image that hides our insecurity from others.
b) Passive, indecisive, “weak” behaviors designed to give us the power to avoid other so that they cannot see our insecurity.

Wow.

Talk about insight. Talk about a smack in the face. Apparently we are usually one or the other….the one that we learned in childhood got us the most bang for our buck when it comes to protection of the heart and soul.

Now I’m sure that volumes could be written (and probably have been) about who chooses which protection mode and how those choices create the lives they lead. But I have been pondering the simpler side of things:

We are all insecure.

All of us. All the time. About something.

Our Money, our Friendships ,our Height, our Weight, our Skin color, our Families, our Work, our Relationships, our To Do Lists, our Faith, our Future, our Profession, our Job, our Health, our Vehicles, our Skills, our Possessions, Love….

And what we would do ( or how can we continue to survive) without these things…..

Some folks are worriers…their way of taking control of the insecurities. Others are worry-less…their way of taking control. Some are planners. Others just let everyone else make the plans and follow their lead.
Do we consciously know that we are insecure? I think we do…but we have long-used well-ingrained habits in place to “work” with it….so we don’t have to think about it all the time.

Nor do we actually face it.

Vulnerability is highly underrated.
Think of the real power that could be generated by educators if, for a few minutes per day, students’ vulnerabilities were actually seen as their strong points, as their gifts. Of course we would have to be willing to do that for ourselves first.

It is one of the things that attracts me to the TPRS teaching community. There is a common understanding that we are all vulnerable because we are always examining our weakest areas and trying to strengthen them. Then we communicate that with each other and even with our students so that we can really face our weak points, accept them, embrace them, learn from them and be better people and teachers because of them.

It is at the heart of what those who teach from the heart do.

We uncover it so that it can open.

With love,
Laurie
All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Why We Teach Archived Post 1.22.12

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, The Teaching Profession

Originally posted 1/22/12

Hello Profe! How are you? I hope you are well. I wanted to share a great story with you. I am in Potsdam finishing my masters in teaching. I start student teaching in Earth Science tomorrow!

Last night a few of my friends and I were out on the town and I ran into two Mexican immigrants at a local pizza shop. One was shivering and did not have a coat, and they were looking for a cab. It was 2 AM. Long story short their phone was not working. They had a cab card, but could not find someone who spoke Spanish. I was the only one in the whole place!

To be honest, I haven’t taken Spanish in three years. I took the required course in college and received an A. I also worked with a few Mexican gentlemen at Lakeview Landscape, Hansen Farms, and Fox Run. (in our local area-Laurie) But I was out of practice. I went off of clear memory, and eventually hailed them a cab in the freezing weather.

I had to figure out if they had problems with the police, where they worked, and how long they had been in the states. All in Spanish. All from memory! They had been here for only 2 months, but worked at a dairy farm. The one gentleman who was shivering has a wife and a family in Mexico, and my heart just felt for them. I am always amazed at how they come here so far from their families to support their lives.

My friends were amazed, but most importantly I looked back at the instruction we had in your classes. It was all still in my head! I will feel good about what I did for the rest of my life, because they were 20 minutes away from “home” and had their Wal-Mart bags and other items outside on the street curb when the cab came. They needed groceries but their boss must not have been able or didn’t want to take them into town.

I can’t explain their expressions when they hopped into their cab, but they kept saying “Gracias amigo” and “Buenas Noches” and I reminded them it made me feel good to help them out!

As teachers we never know how far our instruction and mentoring will go to help others, and yours reached very far last night! Have a wonderful week!

Adam

Yes…this is why we teach!!

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Our Changing Role Archived Post 10.4.11

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Encouragment, Musings, The Teaching Profession

Thoughts on our changing role…. (Originally posted 10/4/11)

Teachers are individuals and as individuals bring their own goals, experiences and perspectives to the profession. Around the nation, more and more of us are feeling compelled to discuss our profession, and our individual roles in it.

What troubles me is that these conversations are limited to rare faculty room exchanges and blogs. These conversations should be taking place in schools on a regular basis as part of professional development.

A school environment is frequently a reflection of the present administration. For a number of reasons, teachers often are asked to, and agree to, adopt programs and attitudes that the present administration puts forward…regardless of their own knowledge of the community, the students and pedagogy. If the new principal believes in an emotionally-distant ‘professional’ approach, then the teachers are required to “perform” under these guidelines. If the new administrator is a proponent of a particular character ed program then the staff is required, without discussion and often without sufficient education and training, to “perform” under this approach. Rarely does the administration choose his or her “pet project” based on his or her knowledge of the school and community.

Teachers complain, however, this can be EXACTLY what we do, or are required to do, in the classroom. Curriculum is written years before students enter the room. Lessons are planned so that all students are literally on the same page, not so that we can meet students where they are.

I realize that some folks are tired of these articles. They perceive that teachers are whining. The truth is that we are aching to be heard. The other truth is that our students are hurting even more than we are in this regard. Now that we finally have a bit of the media’s ear, we should be also listening very closely to the signals that our students give us about school.

Ten years ago, even if all else failed, we could count on the fact that we knew more about a subject than our students…and that they had to rely on us to get that information. That is no longer true. Any information at all is at the world’s fingertips. We cannot expect to be respected as fonts of information and knowledge. We no longer have that role and it’s time to realize that.

What students need are teachers that can and do help them to find, sort, understand, assimilate and apply the incredible amount of information that is out there….in ways that they cannot do themselves.

The only way to do that is to do everything appropriately possible to know our students. It is a new role for us. It can be an uncomfortable one. There are no clear “rules” yet. It requires communication between teachers, students, parents and administration….communication we haven’t developed the skills for yet.

Truth is, if we combine our life experience and knowledge of how the brain works, with our students’ youth and drive (yes…they are driven…just maybe not about our subject areas), parents’ desire for the best for their children and administration’s desire to create effective schools, we just might have a chance.

Thank you for the chance to share my thoughts,
with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.