Have you ever worked hard and stayed up late doing your lesson plans? You had all your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed. All your teacher resources (power points, manipulatives, worksheets, etc.) were all lined up and ready to use at a moments notice. Nothing could go wrong as you walked confidently into the classroom the next day.
Then… Out of the blue chaos breaks out in the class. Little Johnny wets his pants and he doesn’t have a change of clothes, you have an unexpected fire drill and it freaks out the child with special needs in your class who has sensory issues related to loud noises, or a group of boys in your 8th grade middle school math class decide they would rather talk and make gaseous noises from various body parts rather than balance algebraic equations.
You get my point. We leave at the end of the day tired, frustrated, and angry wondering what’s the point and will we ever “get it together” as a teacher? Do we really have what it takes?
As teachers and educators, our success with our students and our peace of mind depends greatly on how we distinguish between our goals for our classroom and our desires for our classroom.
Let me explain. A goal is an objective we set out to achieve and the desired outcome is based solely on one person-You. We are in control of the outcome. A desire on the other hand is an objective that we set out to achieve, but it requires the participation and cooperation of Others. Other people influence the outcome of our desires.
Too often as teachers and parents we base our success with our students or kids on our desires rather than our goals and the end result will always lead to frustration and a negative view of ourselves and who we are as individuals.
Let me give you an illustration from my own life to illuminate my point. I remember my first year teaching at my current school. I work there as a Special Education/Inclusion Teacher. It was time for me to have my first teacher observation by my principal and I got to choose the lesson and time she would observe me.
I was working with a group of fourth grade students who had difficulty in math, especially dealing with the topic of fractions. I prepared what I thought was an amazing lesson. It had fraction bar manipulatives for hands-on learning. I had a hand-made math worksheet and evaluation sheet that I spent a long time creating to make it more appropriate to meet their area of need. You get my point.
Everything was going as planned until one student, Laura, decided that she needed to see the nurse because she was feeling sick. Math was difficult for Laura and she always wanted to see the nurse and would get sick often during math class. This behavior was typical and all of her teachers and parents knew about her math phobia. We were more than half-way done with the lesson so I told Laura nicely that I would let her go in a few minutes when the lesson was over. She agreed and got back to work and seemed engaged in what we were doing. Everything was going as planned and then IT happened.
In the middle of our small group, Laura abruptly proceeded to vomit on part of the table and on the floor before she made it to the garbage pail across the room. There I sat, almost through my perfect lesson, with vomit everywhere and screams of the other 4 kids in the small group yelling, “gross!” ,“That stuff stinks!” ,“I think I’m gonna hurl now , too!” To make a long story short, we got Laura to the nurse, a janitor came to clean up the mess, and I moved my group to another table on the other side of the room and finished the lesson.
Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get home that day and just hide. I went over every detail of the lesson in my head- should I have just let her go to the nurse?, what would my principal say about my judgment?, would I get a good review?
How does this connect with goals and desires? Well, I had a desire to teach a great fraction lesson to my students to help them understand the concept and to make a good impression on my principal. But, the desired result involved other students and the unforeseen circumstances that developed. I went home that night basing my value and worth as a teacher on an unrealistic expectation because I could not control all the factors or students involved.
Later that night, I realized that I had achieved my goal, which was to create and deliver a lesson that was interactive and meet the special needs of the students I served. I was in control of all of this and I accomplished it. That allowed me to hold my head up high the next day and get back in the teaching game.
As teachers and home educators, let’s set reasonable goals, like developing effective lessons, managing classroom and student behavior, and being prepared. Then, show up and execute these activities and tasks to the best of your abilities. How our students or children respond is a desire and you may or may not get the desired outcome.
At the end of the day evaluate and look at what you did well and where you may need to improve, and adjust accordingly, but don’t base your worth and value on what you can not or could not control. Viewing goals and desires with the proper perspective not only gives you more success in the classroom, but it helps you manage every area of your life. It’s foundational to successful teaching and living.
Antoine McCoy is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher as an Exceptional Needs Specialist working with children with mild to moderate disabilities. He has taught children in all grade levels (K-12) in Public and Private Schools (general education, inclusion, and self-contained classes) and with homeschoolers.