Monday, August 25, 2014

Superman does not exist and great teachers need to stop waiting for him

Last year was not a great year, I am not even sure I could count last year as a good year.  The public school teacher in me feels shame, heartache, a need to hide the fact that for one year I was not the best teacher I could be.  But the public servant in me feels the need to open a dialogue about it.

The excuse list is long and the more frustrated I got with myself the longer the list of external reasons became.  But somehow in the dawning light of this school year, this year that somehow just feels right already,  I can see that the long list of external reasons for my problems last year all rest on the foundation of what was internally not working.

I can see it, and I feel compelled in the seeing to share.  I wanted so badly for there to be an external fix, last year.  I was giving all I had, or so I thought. What I was really giving was all I could because I was waiting for someone else to swoop in and fix it.  I had more to give, but I did not believe that what I was able to offer was enough or the "right" thing, so I did not offer it.  I wanted to offer super heroic fixes to make all the problems resolve.  I wanted to offer stimulating lessons that would reach all my students.  I wanted every kid to walk away smarter, more confident, more engaged in their own existence.  But it doesn't work that way.  You can't just want, you have to strive and you have to accept, and you have to believe in your own capabilities. To do that you have to understand your own culpabilities, too.

The great downer, culpability.  Literally: one's own responsibility, fault, or blame for a wrong.

Heavy stuff, culpability.  Even heavier is capability.  Because with capability comes responsibility for a right, even if that right is different than the right being assigned from another: be it an administrator, a teaching partner, a curriculum, or an inner sense of super-heroic responsibility to solve all the problems presented to one's attention.

I'm not Superman, I don't even want to be Superman.  I mean, I want to be a super hero: I want to be able to anticipate all the problems there will ever be; and have at my ready the answers, and the solutions, and the magic fix, and and and. . .

But I also want to be realistic.  I want to be me.  I am capable of what I am capable of and to do that to my best ability is truly amazing--but only if I do it.  And last year, I didn't.  I did my job, I worked to meet the diverse needs of a 50% brand new staff, and I worked to teach a diverse student population in my classroom.  I worked to find connections and harmony. I made it through the curriculum and I made it through the year.  But it was not me, I was not happy.  It was not my best.

I was not doing what I was capable of because I kept telling myself there would not be problems in the school if what I was capable of worked. You see, for 6 years I had been doing what I had been capable of and there were still problems.  Problems so bad they interviewed the whole staff to see who was going to stay and who was going to go. The district then flipped half the staff out of the building, brought in a new administrator and 50% new teachers.  I felt culpable. I felt lost. I felt numb.

What I saw at that time was an interview to determine my culpability and I carried that burden all year. But over time that numbness has worn off.  After deep (dark, horrible, gut wrenching) reflection I realize now that it was an interview to determine my capability.  The interview was designed to determine who stayed, who was capable.  And THEY CHOSE ME TO STAY.  It's time to trust in that, it's time to act on that. It's time to be the teacher that I know I am, that I have been, and that I will be again.

I was culpable, but not for what I thought I was, I was culpable for losing sight of what I was capable of.