Educators have a strange self image. This is concerning to me, because there are so many outside of education that do not understand the profession. We rarely acknowledge when we are doing a good job when things go well, and go immediately to blaming ourselves when things go poorly. I had two conversations this week that inspired me to think about the question, “Am I doing enough?”
Earlier this week I had a conversation with Jessica Lifshitz (@JessLiTTeach) and Kory Graham (@tritonkory) about wondering if they were doing enough for their kids. Will all this be enough? What does enough mean? How would we even know if we had done enough? We as teachers often forget that our end goal is not simply to “prepare them to move on” but that we are a chain in the link that prepares them for life without us, life in society. Many times our impact may not truly show its value until long after the kids we reach have left us.
This goes along with another educator self-loathing idea that we have created in ourselves. Recently a friend asked me and some other educators, “Do you take it personally when your kids just bomb on something?” My answer was no, and I was the only one. Sure I reflect on what I can do differently, but crushing myself with blame is not going to make things better. Rather I need to positively reflect and identify what I can do to create the change necessary to help kids succeed.
We have embraced the “coach” mentality of diverting credit to the kids when they achieve great things, but taking blame when they do not. I am a huge proponent of showering the praise of kids for their successes, but we as educators (even if only in private) need to celebrate our roll in enabling that success, whatever it may be. When our children struggle, fall short, or grow frustrated, we need to also (again privately or personally) acknowledge that we are trying our hardest. It does not absolve us from attempting to improve, merely that we cannot develop this self-shame that comes with accepting 100% of the blame and 0% of the credit.
Ultimately this is a post about the need for celebrating successes and resiliency in our lack of success. What is enough? Enough is when we give what we can, while we can, in a focussed effort to be better for our kids every day. How do you know if you are doing enough for your kids? Ask yourself these questions:
Am I trying everything I can to help improve their lives in some way?
When I fail at this, am I looking for ways to improve?
When I am successful at this, am I allowing myself a moment to reflect on my success?
If you are answering yes, it is safe to say you are doing more than “enough”. If not, how come you are still an educator?