Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Highlight Reel is a Lie.

There's this idea I came across- can't find the link, unfortunately- that the selves we show online are a "highlight reel." The context I found was parenting. If you are on social media, you probably have connections who seem to always be posting something delightful they're doing with their kids or students or crafting time. Pinterest is basically built on this kind of posting. Depending on your mood, that might make you feel awesome and glad for them. But if you're human and having a rough day, you might also see it and think, "Why can I not be like this? How is X always doing all these things? I don't have the time to do that. I'm not good enough to do that. I could never do that."

Well, no, you couldn't be that good all the time. And you know what? Neither can they. Let's consider this totally randomly chosen thing I found searching Pinterest for classrooms. Here's a picture:

Behold. The mason jars labeled with their particular, unmixed contents. The different colored ribbons, beautifully tied. The perfect new pencils, all the same way up in the jar. The markers, not yet dried out, with their caps on properly. The crayons, whole and unbroken. The clean, pink, erasers which have never yet shed their skin in hard labor. It is a beautiful vision. I yearn for this.

It is also a lie.

You teach. You know this. Think about how this is going to go.

Those markers and pencils are never going to be the right way up again, and consequently, will not fit in the jars. Within a month or less, they will probably all have migrated elsewhere- in your classroom if you're lucky. The crayons and erasers will be traumatized and mixed up. There's a pretty solid chance one of these glass jars is going to end up breaking. Probably the crayons one because that will make the most mess.

This is beautiful and I want my life to be like this. But I am on my own a major force for entropy, and once kids are added into the mix, things are never going to be this neat and perfect again.

Teaching is like that too. Our best practices look amazing on paper and sometimes we even carry them out as planned. When that happens, we celebrate! We post on social media! We share on our blogs about this awesome activity we just happened to come up with on the fly, you know, no big deal just a genius!

What we don't do is share our failures. Or, if we do, they're few and far between. There are a lot of really good professional reasons NOT to share our failures. But there are also a lot of really good professional reasons TO share them, provided we do so in a reflective way.

Here's a great post from Rachel Ash about when she felt she was failing her kids. And here's another recent one from Keith about how to deal with the ugly feelings we have when we see those super teacher posts where everything seems to be going right all the time.

So, I'm going to try to share some failures. This is mostly for me, if I'm honest. I need to reflect on all the things that have gone wrong this year and figure out how to fix them for next year (I hope). I'll post more in depth about some of these things in the following few days, but here are some things I've failed at this year.
  • Standards-based grading and consequently my whole grading system
  • Student jobs
  • Getting papers back to kids on time
  • Teaching World History in an engaging manner
  • Using Timed Writes effectively
  • Building positive class culture
  • Planning ahead both long term & day-by-day (oh boy have I failed at this)
  • Including culture in my curriculum, particularly by using an RPG
  • Consistency, fairness, and firmness in classroom management
  • Building routines
  • Rigor (I'm okay with learning the material being easy, but I'm not okay with it being easy to pass when you don't do any work)
  • Using spoken Latin every single day for the majority of class time (Depending on the week it's sometimes almost none or 5-15 minutes a day)
I could go on, but you get the idea. I suppose I should post some successes, too, but let's leave this on a negative note just to make sure there's at least one post on the internet that is NOT a highlight reel. :)

1 comment:

  1. Here are some my own failures:
    Showing up on time
    Holding kids accountable for not showing up on time
    Taking attendance
    Posting learning targets
    Doing any kind of "warm up" exercise

    One of the things that no one tells you is that teaching is basically triage. You attend to the most important things first and then punt the rest. You also need to attend to your own mental health and energy level. The myth that teachers needs to give 110% all the time is simply not possible and contributes to teacher burn out. Be gentle with yourself, you have done so much more than I did as a second year teacher, it's really astounding.