I sit, surrounded by the demands of the National Board certification process, sinking in the despair of defeat, realizing that I don’t measure up. As I’ve done with other experiences in my life, I consider how this experience might relate to students in my classroom, asking myself how this feeling of despair can make me a better teacher.
As a person who has been good at the game of school since I started playing it (when I began kindergarten), I can’t often feel what students feel when they are struggling. I remember trying to help friends with math when I was in high school. I couldn’t understand why the math didn’t just make sense to them. It seemed so logical and easy to me. Not having to struggle to understand or do well in school made my school experiences rewarding and enjoyable but didn’t prepare me to understand how my students feel when they struggle.
Sitting here before a document of questions that I can’t answer, sucks the life out of me. A lesson on grit or a reminder not to give up won’t help me move forward. The promise of a salary increase (which is much more motivating than a grade) isn’t enough to keep me motivated. Even the thought of having paid nearly $1000 for the process this year isn’t enough to keep me going. My only desire is escape. I turn to writing blog posts, something that I know I can succeed at, to assuage the feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
If I’m having these feelings about a process that I signed up (and paid) for voluntarily, how much more might these feelings occur in my students who feel like they are forced to play the game of school when they’d rather be doing anything else? When school gets hard and discouraging, how can we help? How can my current experiences help me better help my students?
What I really need, in my present state of discouragement, is for someone to come alongside me and offer support, encouragement, and, perhaps, offer advice on my next step. I don’t need advice on grit, or working harder. I don’t need carrots or sticks to offer motivation. I do need a little empathy and some guidance. I bet this is what my students need when they are feeling discouraged as well–someone to come alongside and offer a next step or to say, “I’m not giving up on you; I’ll help you succeed at this.” That’s what I’m going to offer this week.
In doing so, maybe I can put these words of Ovid to good use. . .