Monday, October 21, 2013

Aren't Teaching Blogs Just the WORST?

I mean, does it get any worse?

But really, they can be unhealthy for me at times. I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love them because, hey, free stuff and creative ideas!

I hate them because . . .

Well, I think the best way to describe it is by this ecard I came across: - May your life be as perfect as you make it seem on Facebook.

Alls I need to do is tweak it a little bit and it becomes: - May your classroom be as perfect as you make it seem on your blog.

And therein lies my problem with teaching blogs. They are just too darn perfect. I start out happily clicking through pages excited to try new ideas and I end by crying and typing up my resignation letter.

I know the blogs aren't that accurate. I know those teachers' jobs aren't perfect and they have bad teaching days too. But I get fooled far too often. Look at all their creative lesson plans! And games! And look how cute their classroom is! And they made individual Easter baskets for each student! And, oh, they have a cooking blog too! And they just got a book published that they wrote in between changing the diapers of their newborn twins that I guess they somehow take care of!

Welcome to my classroom! The walls are made of gumdrops!

And what have I done? Oh, today I tried to teach that one math concept again that about three of the students understood. I was tired and got pretty frustrated with some of the students when I shouldn't have. My first thought this morning was, "Tomorrow's Friday!" 

That was my day. 

I don't think it's a bad thing to make an upbeat blog that focuses on the good parts of teaching. The problem is when the reader can't see that the blogs are only showing the good parts. These blogs are only showing a sliver of the whole picture. The good bits. The helpful bits.

Even my blog is mostly showing the good parts. Not because I'm trying to hide the bad parts, but because the internet is a very public and permanent place and isn't always an appropriate place for rants and complaining.

Someone should tell the people of Youtube.

I don't write blog posts saying, "Well, today I taught short vowels for the 57th time and it was pretty boring. I was tired, so I left out the fun part and we mostly did rote memorization. I daydreamed about going home for most of math."

I don't write that, but I could. Not most days, but many days. Lots of identical posts. But it would be so boring and unhelpful that even I wouldn't read it. Why prolong my monotonous ineffective day by writing about it? I'd rather write about my meaningful days, and the same goes for other teachers.

When I get overwhelmed by how amazing all these teachers are, I try to remember a few things I've learned over the years.

1. Every Teacher Has a Weakness

It's true, you know. Not that you should go pointing out teachers' weaknesses once you find them, but it can be helpful to remember. Sometimes I'll see a teacher that I am convinced is PERFECT. They've got everything down! But if you watch any teacher, or anyone, long enough you start to notice something missing. There are gaps in what seems like a perfect exterior. Sometimes the gaps are huge. Maybe a teacher has incredible, fun, and creative lessons planned every day, but they have huge behavior issues in the classroom that render the lessons completely pointless.  I know that has happened to me.

Often when I see a teacher who I think is perfect and there's no way I could be as good as them, what I'm really doing is comparing my weaknesses as a teacher to their strengths as a teacher. It's not a fair comparison.

Maybe if you just give it your all!

2. Teaching Isn't EVERYTHING

What? Yes it is! What about how all during my teaching program I kept hearing about how I'm going to change every child's life I meet? What about all those stories about inspiring people who credit their greatness to an elementary teacher? I'm CHANGING THE WORLD!

Calm down, I didn't say teaching wasn't important. I'm just saying it's not the only important thing. There are other important things in life too. 

All those things they tell you about teachers changing the world are encouraging during your teaching program, but they become nightmarish when you realize you aren't a perfect teacher each day. If you're not inspiring every child every day, well then logic says the only alternative is you're ruining them for life.

But you're not. Teaching is very important. And teaching is also not the only factor in a child's success in life. If you didn't teach a child fractions in the best way possible, they probably won't end up in jail later.

Except this guy.

3. If You Give 100% to Teaching, Something Else Will Suffer

Like I said, teaching isn't everything. We have other areas of our lives. If you devote 100% of your time and energy to becoming a great teacher, some area in your life will suffer. You can't live at the school 12 hours a day and come home and grade papers and design lessons for a couple more hours without some area of your life being affected. If you do this, the outcome probably won't be that you're the best teacher ever. The outcome will probably be that your health will decline, your relationships will suffer, and you will burn out and quit teaching in a couple of years, which isn't helpful to your future students at all.

Even if you do decide to devote 100% of your time to teaching, you will still find you can't give 100% to every area. You have to divide your time and energy between preparing lessons, communication with parents, collaborating with colleagues, and participating in various teacher teams. I don't know what the right balance is, but it's probably different for everyone. So when you see teacher X giving 100% to area 4, remember, some other area is suffering. Don't feel like you're a failure for not doing something that's impossible.

Well. Well, if I didn't just give a motivational speech, eh? Well I'll be. But I do hope it can help some struggling teacher at some point. 

Gooooooooooood luck. Teaching isn't so bad!

P.S. You probably will change some lives, even if you feel ineffective. They weren't completely lying to you in your program.


  1. I LOVED this post! It applies to so many areas of life, including parenting. Excellent read. Thanks.

  2. Again, a very useful and applicable life lesson. This is so helpful to me. Thank you.

  3. I totally agree with what you have to say here. You had some really interesting things to say here, so i really enjoyed this post. Keep up the good work.