By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Teachers, YOU are enough. There’s no finger pointing, blame game here. You won’t find a Pinterest idea guilting you into spending even more time on an impossible situation. Just breathe.
You are charting unknown territory and doing it with the best of your ability. Know that you are enough.
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
– Maya Angelou
I love this quote from Maya Angelou. “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” You may need to reread that a couple of times and tape it to your bathroom mirror or plaster it on your refrigerator. Do whatever it takes to believe these words!
It doesn’t matter what other teachers are doing
How many times have you told your children or your students, “It doesn’t matter what other people are doing?” Probaby plenty. Now it’s time to take your own advice.
It’s easy to start comparing yourself to others in our social media world. Facebook feeds show teachers reading to a student in a driveway, mailing students’ packages, forming birthday parades, calling all their students, creating amazing videos, writing their students’ songs, and the list goes on. You start wondering, “Am I doing enough? Am I good enough?”
“Whatever you did today is enough. Whatever you felt today is valid. Whatever you thought today isn’t to be judged.” – Brittany Burgunder
Here’s the thing. Each of us has different life circumstances with different situations, different resources, different talents, and different convictions. If you want to spend three hours creating individual cards for your students and that brings you joy and validation, then go for it. If crawling out of bed in the morning, and answering your student emails is the most you can manage, good for you.
Some of us have grown children and the daily schedule is ours. Others of us are trying to take care of small children, handle their online learning, and still do our own online teaching. Others care for elderly parents. Some teachers live alone, and the isolation is taking a mental toll.
Whatever situations you find yourself in, you are doing your best. The fact is, you are all doing the best with what you have, and I want you to know that is enough.
There are three things I know about teachers:
- You love your students.
- You put your heart and soul into teaching.
- No one knows your students like you do.
You love your students
Without a doubt, teachers love the students in their classroom. Being away from your students is hard because you miss the daily connection and interaction. You miss hearing their funny stories and sharing their big and small victories.
If you could wrap them all in a big hug right now and tell them everything will be okay, you would. You hope and pray they are safe, fed, and loved because you know they don’t all go home to safe, secure, and loving homes. There is an empty place in your heart right now because they are not in your daily life and you didn’t get to complete the year with them.
It’s okay to grieve the loss
It’s okay to grieve the loss of that goodbye. The end of school is often a little sad, but you generally have time to prepare as you go through traditional spring and year ending events. The abrupt ending to your school year is sad and disheartening for many teachers.
It’s okay to be sad that you won’t get to experience those last moments with your students and watch them walk into the next chapter of their lives.
It’s okay not to miss it all
But you know what, it’s also okay if you aren’t going to miss some students. It’s the white elephant in the room, the taboo topic, but teachers are feeling guilty because they see posts talking about how much teachers miss all their students.
You may be sitting there thinking: “Is there something wrong with me? I’m kind of relieved I don’t have to deal with Bobby right now! Does that make me a bad teacher?”
No, it makes you human. Some years we have a great connection with our kids and for whatever reason other years we don’t.
Some years I cried tears of real sorrow because students were leaving, and to be honest, a couple of years I waved goodbye to students with a smile on my face. I felt relief that I had survived.
The bottom line is there is no right or wrong here. You can be a good teacher, yet not miss your students. You can love your students, but not devote all of your time to them.
You put your heart and soul into teaching
Another thing I know is that you put your heart and soul into teaching. Teaching is not just a job. For most teachers, it is a calling. It is your purpose in life and makes you feel fulfilled. Right now, even though you’re working from home, it feels different.
Everything you know has been upended, and you may feel angry, frustrated, and lacking in the skills to do your job well. Please know this, teachers, you are enough. Your heart and soul are still there, and your kids still need them. It’s different, but for now it’s enough.
The love and compassion you show your students are what they are going to remember most from your days in the classroom. That same love and compassion is what they will remember about you from distance learning. No matter what kind of learning is taking place, how you make them feel is what they will remember and what they hold on to long after the school year is over.
So as you worry about creating meaningful lessons and trying out new technology, don’t lose sight of the fact you are the heart and soul of your teaching.That remains the single most important thing you can give your students every day.
No one knows your students like you do
Each teacher has a unique relationship with each student. It doesn’t matter if a student has seven different teachers, they act differently in each class and respond differently to each teacher. As you work with each class and each student, you have learned what works and doesn’t work.
You alone know what is best for your students. As their teacher, you know when to push and when to step back. You know how to bring out their best, how to adapt lessons, and when to change an approach.
Now more than ever, students need that special knowledge only you have. District mandates only go so far because they are one size fits all policies. As teachers, you know you don’t have one size fits all students.
“You know more than you think you do.” – Dr. Benjamin Spock
Trust yourself because you are the expert on your kids. You will make decisions for what is best for them. You may not be used to online teaching, but at the end of the day, you know what is best for your students. You are the expert on your class and your kids. You can do this because you are enough.
Teachers, you are enough
You are their teacher, and that is enough. You were enough for your students before all the stay at home orders and before school closed. You loved them and you’ve put your heart and soul into teaching them. Those things don’t change when you teach virtually.
You still love your kids; you still put your heart and soul into them; and you still know them better than anyone else. That is why teachers, you are enough.