Letting Go of Expectations

We are well into the start of the school year. Things may or may not have slowed down. Stress levels may be even higher than they were before the start of the year or they may have remained the same. 

I always learn something new every year about myself and how to be a better teacher. Usually, this takes about 4 months into the year or even until the end of the year for me to realize what I’ve learned. This year I have to pause and reflect on the work that I am doing much earlier than expected: 

  • What is working? 
  • What format do we use for assignments? 
  • How do we let students know about work? 
  • What about parents? 
  • How do we keep track of what class is doing what? 
  • What day is it? 
  • Who am I? 
  • Am I sure I want to do this for a career? 

These questions are accompanied this year with a lot of frustrations, fears, anxieties, anger, and tears. (Wine too) All before school even started, I questioned staying in my job A LOT! I wasn’t trained to teach this way: hybrid model, masks on, virtually, students on computers all the time… The whole process has been confusing and nerve wracking; even before it started. 

During our training we did an activity where we looked at our expectations in a new way. We took a cup of various colored paint and a plain white canvas and were told that these two things represent our expectations for the year. The cup of paint was filled with various colors to represent all of our expectations- in person learning, no masks, perfect lesson plans, students that listen – (we can wish right?) – all perfectly contained in this little cup. We were then told to take the cup and dump it in the middle of the canvas, move the paint around until the whole canvas was covered.

It was messy. It wasn’t an “art” we are used to. We had to let go of the rigidity of our perfect expectation in a cup and let them go where they wanted to go. The results were stunning. The marbled look of the different colors blended together, yet still having distinct boundaries was amazing. When the canvas was dry, we were all amazed at the work of art we created by just letting go of the control and seeing where the paint ended up. Some teacher’s looked like galaxies, others glaciers with various colors of ice, there were some sunsets, and even a few that resembled the rock formations at Arches National Park. 

The point of this exercise is an obvious one. However, it has taught me a lesson early this year about my own abilities as a teacher when I reflect on the start of the year. 

It has taught me that I can still have the structure in my classroom I know my students need, but it also allows me to be flexible in the structure I use to help my students learn. It has taught me there is a tried and true way of doing things, and while change is hard, sometimes it brings out some of the best teaching and learning. It has taught me there is beauty in this struggle, and the outcome is going to be amazing regardless of the hard things. 

So take a breath, we got this. As teachers we may not have been trained on teaching online, but we were trained to adapt and be prepared for anything. Find the beauty in this mess of a school year, I promise it’s there, even on the hard days.

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