As teachers, we pour our hearts and souls into our work. We plan weeks at a time and create lessons that are engaging and motivating, but also connected to an ever-changing curriculum.
We spend hour upon hour every week in our rooms, stay late, come early, and take our work home for the weekends. Then, on top of it all, we participate in every extracurricular we can, because it’s important to our kids. And yet, despite our best efforts, we can be told our hard work isn’t good enough.
It’s never easy to be told that you should be more like someone—or something—else. That your work—your pride and joy—is awesome but … not as awesome as this. Ouch. So, what can you do to bounce back? Here are some ideas.
1. Be like Elsa and let it go.
I don’t mean forget it ever happened. Take some time for yourself—the old adage of “time heals all wounds” isn’t wrong. You’re going to need at least a few days to let your emotions settle. Nobody makes good decisions or healthy self-reflections when they’re angry or upset.
Keep your normal routine—eat dinner with your family, work out if you’re into that kind of thing. Eventually, you’ll be able to look at it all objectively.
2. Consider the source of the statement.
Is it someone whose opinion you value? A mentor? A trusted supervisor who’s given you constructive feedback in the past? A colleague who knows you and your teaching style well and whose opinion you trust? Was the comment based on any real—no, meaningful—information? If it was, then hop down to the next option. If not, and you know the comment was meant to be more of a dig, skip to number four.
3. Think about what you can do to change.
Sure, the comment might’ve hurt. But was there some truth to it? Did someone point out a flaw that you’ve been trying to hide but knew you needed to work on? Growth-mindset is the new buzzword in the edu-world, and we should practice what we preach.
“I’m not good at differentiating for all kids” needs to become “I’m not good at it yet.” If there was value in the statement, tackle it. Make a change!
4. Go right to the kiddos.
Your students are the best evaluators of the success of your classroom. Throw together a quick survey and ask them how they think their year is going. This is also a chance for you to reflect on your core values; what’s important in your classroom?
For me, it’s every kid feeling free to be themselves—”You do you”—and learning in the way that’s the best for them. So, some of my survey questions might be:
- Do you feel like I respect you as a person?
- Do you think I do everything I can to help you learn? What’s one thing I could do differently?
- What’s one thing you wish I knew?
(That last one can be heartbreaking, eye-opening and the best thing you’ve read all day all at the same time. Sometimes they just want to tell you they love you … and it’s exactly what you’re going to need in a moment of self-doubt.)
5. Remember: You. Are. Enough.
It might be time for that cheesy self-affirmation in the mirror, but do it. Look yourself in the eye and tell yourself that you’re a heck of a good teacher, and you’re making a difference in the lives of your kids. You do your job—and you do it well.
If you’re teaching, and the kids are rising to the occasion in your classroom, then you’re giving it your all. You attend games, clubs and after-school activities just to see the smiles on their faces. Kids come to your class every day looking forward to seeing you. That’s worth the world.
Our goal is to make our kids feel like they’re smart enough, brave enough, good enough—and just enough, period. If we follow the same rules for ourselves, suddenly the world looks a lot different, no matter who or what we’re compared to.
How will you make the best of the next time you’re made to feel like your work isn’t good enough? (But I promise you—it is.)