When the lesson plan doesn't go as planned, or the student comes in and puts their head down, or the stroke of the policymaker's pen undoes years of curriculum work, or the article of the week response doesn't get turned in, or the department meeting disorients more than it orients, or the stack of papers gets bigger, not smaller…
…these things are certainties, not exceptions. The default is that these things will happen. Because teaching is hard.
There just are near infinite variables in a given lesson. There just are more interesting things to do in life than a thing as vague as “school.” There just are kids who don't get enough sleep. There just are tens of thousands of schools affected by policy. (Ours is an ant.) There just are more pressing concerns or more enticing pleasures in the lives of many children than writing 250 words in response to this week's text.
We're not being fatalists here. This isn't pessimism — it's reality. Accepting it is a foundation of resilience. Accepting it lets us settle in for the long haul of mastering the work.
- As we master teaching, we learn the variables and how they play together. Lessons become art.
- As we master teaching, we learn to cultivate the five key beliefs and our classes stop being school as usual.
- As we master teaching, we learn to teach kids how to manage their lives as well as their schoolwork.
- As we master teaching, we learn to weather the storms of policy and wisely influence it.
- As we master teaching, our impact on the long-term flourishing of young people increases and so can the enjoyment of our lives, despite the circumstances.
So work today to leverage your time toward the mastery of teaching. Keep your eyes on Everest. Satisfice or skip the pointless stuff.
Your system might not tell you to focus on what matters most — but still, that's the thing to do. You're not alone.