What a question! Not that long ago at SWCOLT a teacher friend of mine, a strong voice in our field, asked this rhetorical question and got me thinking the same.
We both sat there chatting things up and pondering deep questions about things which is one of the great perks of getting to attend a good conference. Some of the best PD is just getting to sit around and pick your heroes brains. At least it is for me.
This question of hers has resonated with me over and over again since that day in late February lingering with me during a period of time when I felt like I had lost some of my momentum. The winter doldrums had settled in and I was struggling through an uninspired phase of the year. This is not to mention the fact that I feel I have been trudging through a year of being uncertain what I have to say (a rather important thing if you write a blog) or what I am thinking and learning about. I didn't submit any proposals to present this year because I just didn't know what to share. Still don't, really, but maybe this question is a confession I am meant to share with you.
No, I am not calling any of you frauds. What I hope to share with you is the kindred burden of reflection. Yes, reflection is a burden. It is a burden because it doesn't normally come during good times or after success. When things are good we strut around like our stuff don't stink knowing we've got swag... or at least that's what the kids we teach say. Reflection, if we accept the heavy mantle it is, comes through struggle, difficulty and during long dry journeys across the deserts.
I have proof, too! You know you have someone you teach or work with who never really thinks about the implications of the things they do, good or bad. If life or work isn't good it is because it is due to an outside force working against them. Never ever could it be that the source of the trouble stares back at them in the mirror every morning. Doesn't that type of existence seem like heaven?
So, the truth I have to confess to you is that I am a fraud. I don't always have it together in my classroom. I make boneheaded mistakes. I wrongly time my lessons or fail to scaffold properly. I get tired and grumpy and have days that textbook exercises really sound like the way to go simply so I can hide behind my computer and take a mental break. I get behind on my grading and even procrastinate. I am NOTORIOUS for being terrible about getting administrative paperwork done. I would much rather write curriculum or plan a unit. Sometimes just walking to the copy machine seems like a chore from hell.
Sometimes, really more often than I would like, my regular level 2 students don't love what we are doing, don't see the value and can't envision themselves being really proficiency speakers of Spanish. I get disappointed and sometimes blow it and yell. What you all get to see is the polished product, or what I put together AFTER stalling on the side of the road and crying. Let's not pretend... if you are a teacher, you have shed a few tears of absolute exasperation!
What happens after all of this is the worst thing of all. I spend a lot of time beating myself up. I punish myself for not being more creative or not seeing the gaping hole I left in a lesson I designed. I chew myself out for being lazy or not knowing ENOUGH. If I only just knew MORE.
BUT, I try hard not to stay in that place too long. I analyze what is going wrong and brainstorm possible solutions. I get back up on my proverbial horse and try, try again, but this time I try to be better, make wiser decisions, or manage my time better. I reflect. I don't blame, or at least don't try to. I try to be honest with myself as often as I can. Granted, some of this honesty comes slower that it should at times.
One thing I know for certain is that I am not a fraud. No reflective teacher is. I am a lifelong learner and I never want to know everything because that means the journey is over. It would mean there is no longer a point to tweet, go to conferences, or find a quiet corner to hash over the tough stuff with a colleague in another state.
As for me, I choose the journey with all its bumps in the road, detours and breakdowns.
I hope you do, too, because we have a month and a half left to go and lots to do!
Hang in there and...
(n.) A special place where we remember that students are humans that need to feel loved and important, where their achievements are celebrated every day and where we learn Spanish along the way!
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