Movie break. This one of my favorite scenes from the movie Tommy Boy. Give it a quick watch and then read. I promise, there is a point.
“Why did I just watch this?”
I will be honest, when I went to write, I had this idea of writing about Monday being “Go Time” for teachers and I went looking for the scene when it was said in this movie. However, watching the clip brought a message to mind for me that I need to hear (even if it is hearing it from myself). This clip has a lot to do with teaching.
So often we feel like things are going well in a class or all of our classes. We have done all of the right things, as far as we know. We are using the best strategies. We are integrating. We are differentiating. We are rigorizing (yes, I just made up a word). We are doing everything a teacher should be doing…then…
Something hits us out of left field and destroys the classroom peace and joy that we thought we had. It could be a student meltdown. It could be a parent issue. I could be an administration situation. It could be a number of things that suddenly send us in a tailspin and weave us all over our little teaching road.
Before we know it we are in a fight for our teaching lives.
Then the chaos dies down.
The dust settles.
Blame gets assigned.
Usually, the fight is with ourselves. What did we do wrong? What could we have done different? Why did we not think of the issue that happened? So on and so on and so on.
Sometimes the fight is with others. A power struggle with students. A disagreement with parents. An accusation from administration or other teachers.
Who ever the fight is with, it usually starts at the blame game.
The part of the scene that hits me the most is when Tommy said, “I am trying my best. I am not my dad.”
How often do we feel that way? Okay, probably not the “dad” part, but we do compare ourselves to others, especially to the teachers that seem to make being a great teacher look easy.
When we get to that point where we feel like we can’t do better than we are because we are trying “our best” is when we need to pause, take a deep breath, and think before we act.
This is where we are most defensive. Because of that, we are also at the point when we can be the most stupid. In this movie scene there was a literal fight. But in teaching we can make bad choices when we feel this way…choices we may regret later.
Our “go time” needs to be different.
We need to make choices that will help and not hurt the situation. Choices that we can learn from. Choices that our students will see and learn from. Choices that will help us not get to this point in the future.
Sorry for the vagueness here, but every has different situations and triggers that get us to this point in teaching on any given day.
Luckily, the solutions are pretty much the same for most scenarios.
There are some steps to take to help us get in the right state of mind.
- Like I said, pause and breathe. Most of the time, reacting immediately leads to those poor choices mentioned.
- Remind yourself that it is not as bad as it feels. In the moment, things are blown out of proportion. You need to keep them in perspective…even if the other person/people isn’t/aren’t. When everything is sorted out in the end, you never regret having kept thing in perspective…but you almost always regret not doing this.
- Remember why you teach. When the going gets tough, it is easy to forget that you actually love teaching. Look for the silver lining or just remember that teaching is your passion…the little hiccups to teaching are always short and small in the long run.
- Take as much time as you can. Delay making a decision or action on the situation as long as you can. Be like the Ents in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Ents are tree-based characters and they are known for the lack of moving quickly. They try to never be hasty. One of their leaders, Treebeard, said in the book The Two Towers, “But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout stop! than to do it.” When you move to quickly, your choices lead to more. Stop and stay stopped before you move. It really is much easier to say stop than actually do it once you are moving.
- Put the students and their needs first. When you come to decision time, focus on the student/students. What do they need most from the situation. How can you turn a negative into a positive for them.
If you try to take these steps, your “go time” will be well thought out and meaningful in the end for all that are involved.
Teacher, things come up. We face hard times. Never forget that you love teaching, and the hard times never last forever. The tough things will pass eventually. Keep on teaching your teaching best, even in spite of the difficulties sometimes.
You are so awesome! I know that the challenges don’t keep you down long. I know that with every “go time” you have you get better and better at doing them well. I sincerely hope that you have the best day ever! Never give up and always keep on teaching, Teacher!