Saturday, April 8, 2017

When You Wonder If You're Crazy

This is an honest post. As I set out to write it, I'm not sure it will end on a hopeful note. The best I can say is I'm not completely giving up. Maybe it can connect with another teacher who sometimes feels this way. Maybe it will provide contrast to a positive story later.

It's been a rough school year in ways I never anticipated. I decided last month (again) that as long as I'm in the district, I'm going to give it 100%. I'm going to keep believing even if I'm the only one.

So a couple weeks ago I signed up to present at the 6th Grade Orientation. It's the event where we tell the fifth grade students and their parents what to expect at our middle school. I wanted to talk about the exciting opportunities that our technology program offers students.

That Monday morning I was thinking about this when I heard Vicki Davis' interview with Angela Maiers. (If you only want something positive, stop reading and just listen to that. It's good.)

I love Angela's message that every student matters and her passionate talk in that interview was a bit of encouragement to me.

I actually had already considered using the quote that launched her mission (which I believe first came from Seth Godin.):

"You are a genius and the world needs your contribution." 

I tell that to students a lot when I talk to them about technology. It's a great starting point to grab attention, since they generally expect me to talk about apps, how to use Chromebooks and what will happen to them when they break the rules.

I decided to modify it slightly for my talk at the orientation. I wrote on the slide, "You have a gift and the world needs you to use it." As I developed my presentation, I have to admit I wondered if I still believed that for every kid. I considered leaving the quote out. Even moments before I spoke, I thought about deleting the slide.

But I left it in. I told them all--parents, students and the other teachers--that I believed it. I explained that technology offers connections that will allow students to learn and create so their genius can be unleashed in exciting ways.

I continued the talk, then ended with that same slide. Gifts, contribution, etc.

No one said a thing about it when I was done. To be honest, I didn't know if I encouraged anyone or if I looked like an idiot. I wasn't even sure anyone heard me, since the sound system wasn't great. .

The next morning, even before first hour, a couple teachers teased me about it. They weren't being terribly negative. To them it was just good fun, worth a laugh that Mike still thinks every kid is a genius. I expected that response, so it in no way hurt my feelings. I was somewhat relieved to know the sound system actually came through.

I told them it's what I have to believe if I'm still going to keep at it after all these years. For me it has been 23, longer than any of the others in the huddle. I think one of them sort of understood that I was taking it very seriously. She later said she was just kidding, so at least she was thinking about it.

I wish I had a better story to tell, but that's the real one so far.


  1. Mike, the same here. I am not an experienced teache, as a matter of fact I became a teacher when I had and 'impasse' in my previous proffession but I am glad I took the chance one school gave me. It is pretty frustrating when everyone around you tease you for being the optimist and when the ones that are not making fun just say that you're great for thinking like that, and that you should not lose it, but don't really want to change themselves. Even the kids think you're stupid for trying to think outside the box and not wanting to make them work in an over traditional way. Some of my students even have told me that they don't do things because I'm too considerate and I don't penalise them for everything they don't do. It's really strange and frustrating at the same time. It feels like colleagues and some students are mocking you and you start to wonder if you are the odd one out there. Thank you for your post and please, don't let your hopes go down, every child (and every person I may say) has incredible gifts, they only need to be willing to make the effort it takes to discover it and make the most out of it.

    Ps.: If you have any advice on troublesome adolescents I would appreciate it. I have a very manipulative and rebellious student who no one can handle and the worst thing is that he's only 12.

    All the best!

    1. Thanks for writing! I know there are many of us in this situation, but it's not something that's easy to talk about. Who wants to hear the seemingly uneventful or average stories, right? While we don't all experience those moments that make inspiring books and movies, our part is important. Over my career I've had a few teachers and students who tell me my efforts made a difference. Keep doing what you're doing, because I'm sure you are needed right where you are!

      I wish I had some good practical advice about working with the one rebellious student. I had my share of them when I taught math, but I can't say I had a lot of long term victories. Many times we'd connect great outside of class, but day to day class time was never so certain. One of my mentor teachers told me to pray for them and make personal connections. I tried both, always hoping that respecting them as people would pay off.

      Check out some of Larry Ferlazzo's links on Social Emotional Learning. He has good results and bases things on research.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.