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I’m Not Ready, So How Can My Students Be

20130126-152835.jpgAs I engage in conversations and listen to panel discussions here at EduCon 2.5, I find myself struck by an important idea:
I’m not ready.

I understand the need to change, and I recognize the ways in which public education is failing our students. I write about what must be done, and I talk about the reforms that are needed. But, when I step back into my classroom, I freeze up. I think of all the obstacles that get in the way of better lessons. I get frustrated about the inadequate resources and the limited time that I have to plan and assess.

And, at least half the time, what actually happens in my classroom is not nearly as progressive and powerful as most people who know me would expect. I fall short of the expectations that I put forth for the world of education. And the reason for this failure is simple:
I’m not ready.

I want my teaching to be more student-centered and more project-based, but I can’t even wrap my head around the time and effort (and mental re-tooling) that would be needed to get there. I get “teacher’s block” and end up falling back on the practices that I started my career with. I fail.

And this is a scary thing for me. I resent my own deficiences and want to improve upon them, so I guess that’s a good start. But it doesn’t do much to ease my worries for the time being. I mean, if I can’t get on board and be the teacher I need to be, how can I expect my students to join this revolution?

Do you feel this pressure? How do you deal with it?

5 thoughts on “I’m Not Ready, So How Can My Students Be

  1. I’m going to be very honest here, Paul. After I reread this several times (and double-checked to see that you indeed had written it), my initial response was to reject it. “He’s not “not ready”, he’s just wrong.” I let this post marinate for a while and came back to it, rereading it whilst forcing myself to accept your stated premise, or at least that it’s an honest account of your perspective. I feel compelled to address several items, but I was not in Philly for EduCon 2.5, so please forgive me if my response here simply shows my ignorance.

    First and foremost: Anyone who says they not frustrated, not angry, or not afraid of the long and difficult road ahead of education are NOT more brave or more ready than you. They are simply less aware of classroom reality.

    Secondly, your line, “…end up falling back on the practices that I started my career with. I fail.” bothers me greatly. ‘Resorting’ to your tried-and-true practices in the classroom – and a simple the need for the familiar – makes you human, not a failure. Your thirst for innovative change is part of what makes you an educator that many look to to lead said change. Many, including myself, may not realize the effects of placing that tremendous pressure on your shoulders. Feeling its hefty weight is also hardly a measure of your “failure.”

    “And, at least half the time, what actually happens in my classroom is not nearly as progressive and powerful as most people who know me would expect.” I understand what you saying here. You can only do what you can do, and resources, realities, and sometimes sheer exhaustion gets in the way of “being the change” we want to see in education.

    But don’t sell yourself short. Phrases like “I fail” and “resent my own deficiences” in this post not only don’t describe you as an educator or person, but they’re negative phrases I can’t picture you using to describe even a mediocre colleague or student. You owe yourself the same optimism you bestow on others.

    “Do you feel this pressure? How do you deal with it?”

    Absolutely. I look to educators like yourself and reflect on changes that I can make to improve my practices. I don’t measure up, but I keep trying.

    “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
    ― Barack Obama

    ~E

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Erica. I understand and agree with most of what you are saying here. However, I disappoint myself when I choose the familiar over research-based techniques. But, fear not, I’m not giving up!

  2. I get what you mean, and I often feel that I’m not making enough changes or moving fast enough in the right direction. But I am moving. It’s slow–one “strategic upgrade” at a time. Last year I really tried to increase the amount of critical thinking my students did. This year I’m exploring and implementing some PBL (and immensely frustrated with it), but I’m trying to change. I’d love to do a once-for-all overhaul, but that’s not realistic. I get the fear. It’s honest and it’s real. I have it, too. Perhaps I’m not ready either, but something compels me to try.

    It was great being with you this past weekend.

    1. Philip,
      Thanks for sharing in the conversation. It helps to know that others feel the same way.
      All the best,
      Paul

  3. Teaching is the ride of your life. I share the sentiment as a jr. high history teacher. :) Love your open honesty. And I feel the same ALL THE TIME!
    Chris Scott

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