I am naturally inclined to look at the world as a series of problems to be solved. It brings me great joy to tackle a problem and solve it. This worldview is both a blessing and a curse. I am drawn to helping others and working with them to become better version of themselves. Over the years, I have noticed that it is very easy for me to look at the many problems that there are left to solve without taking pause to celebrate the victories along the way. As teachers, we need to stop to take time to celebrate these victories or else we will surely lose sight of how far we have come. In my free time, I enjoy backpacking and hiking. I can equate this mentality to a steep ascent on my way to the top of the mountain. You can continue up the mountain with your eyes fixed ahead, but you will miss the beauty of the the obstacles you have overcome to get to where you are.
There is very little enjoyment to be found in climbing a mountain unless you take the time to look around and see the beauty. The same can be said about taking time to note the successes that you and your students have enjoyed along the way.
As a teacher, it is easy to skim over your successes and only focus on the seemingly infinite stream of new challenges. You can easily get knocked down by a struggling student who you have been working with in your free time who still cannot seem to take ownership of his/her learning and continues to miss assignments. You might also get knocked down by a student conflict after having spent countless hours in peer mediations, one-on-one conversations, and community building. Each time you get knocked down you might shake your head and think: “Where did I go wrong?” Take solace in the fact that you may have done all that you possibly could and yet have fallen short.
I have found myself feeling this way on more than one occasion— a feeling that exists somewhere between tears, frustration, and exhaustion. In that moment where you feel like you have failed, you can either continue to languish in the sorrow or rejoice in knowing that with the defeat there were also many successes. When’s the last time that you took time to take gain perspective and look at the all of the positive progress that your students have made as a result of the work you have done?
For many of us, we take the work that we do very seriously and it is easy to dwell on the failures while glancing over the successes. Although it is important to learn from our failures, it is just as important to recognize and celebrate the moments of progress that you’ve made. Many times it takes the help of trusted colleagues for you to see the positive results of what you have been doing. I have found it to be one of the best ways to gain perspective. These successes may seem small and insignificant, but in some way you have made a positive change in a young person’s life. I don’t know about you, but that’s why I teach.
The daily grind can often leave a teacher feeling like very little of what they do makes a difference. During these times, it is a struggle to feel inspired or passionate about your work.. Through many of my life’s experiences, I have realized that I have been put on this Earth to be of service of others. I do this best through teaching others and guiding them to become the best version of themselves. If you’re like me, teaching is your life’s work. That is why I have realized that in the moments I feel that I have failed, I need to take a step back and celebrate the small victories.