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Playing with Fire in the Classroom

I've always said I could never be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a politician, or fireman or EMT or soldier or policeman - because I couldn't handle it if someone's life would be effected by my job performance. I couldn't imagine having "one of those days" where I was way off, and it leading to possibly someone's death. Doctors and policemen and many of those first responder jobs - they hold life and death in their hands. I just couldn't handle that pressure.

That's why I became a teacher. :)

Little did I realize I would go to bed every night worrying about the moves I made in class that day. As a principal I worry about every choice I make - am I effecting my student's future for the worse? Did I do everything I could to ensure my students would be successful? The easy answer is yes, but the real answer is it is NEVER ENOUGH! There are students I failed. There are students who I just couldn't save.

Every day we step into the school, we are playing with fire. One step in one direction or the other could prove disastrous. Do I take this moment to give constructive criticism? Or is this the time to praise and work on their self esteem? Do i take this moment to elaborate on the concept I just taught? Or do I need to move on because we won't teach the entire curriculum if I don't. Each step we take could be the wrong or right one. And we will NEVER REALLY KNOW if we chose right or wrong!!!

I'm starting to think I chose the wrong profession after all! It's almost as if teachers and educators are just as important as the other social service professions that are a free service for all people. Like Teaching our children is just as important as saving their lives. Almost like Education Matters. Almost like we hold lives in our hands! Shoot! I DID make the wrong choice!!!!

At least in the elementary school, you have kindergarten. I can feel relatively sure that I'm not screwing them up too badly yet in Kindergarten. There's many more years for that. Except - now that I think about it, Cinthia showed me her picture of a unicorn yesterday, and I don't think I really looked at it and gave her much feedback. I just said "that's pretty!" and walked on to my next task.

Oh My God. Pretty??? PRETTY???!!! Come on Mister E!!! What was I thinking??? I may as well have just told her that only beautiful things have merit in this world!! I may as well have told her that girls only have value when their art is aesthetic! And was I subtly communicating that mythical creatures are real? Or have more value than real horses?

Wait - or maybe I was helping to foster her imagination, and teach her that girls can write fantasy and sci fi as well as boys! Maybe I was keeping her humble by not putting too much emphasis on something that, to be honest, was NOT her best work. Not everyone gets a trophy and that sort of thing?

I don't know. I think I'll go crazy trying to figure it out.

I definitely don't think I can face her tomorrow. I can't step into that classroom. Every step I take. Every move I make I'm playing with fire. I'm playing with lives, with minds, with futures. I just can't have that on my conscience.

So what's a teacher or principal to do? To hear some people say it lately, maybe we are the problem? Maybe it's "idiot teachers" who are messing up this country? Maybe I'll just stay home.

But no, I don't think so. Granted, there are some BAD policemen. And Firemen. And Doctors. And there ARE some bad teachers. But I see A LOT of great teachers. Doing their best. Juggling 30 students lives. Playing with fire every day. And doing a Dang good job of it. I've seen some spectacular fire jugglers in my day, laughing and dancing through the flames of the classroom, aware of the power they wield, and able to handle the pressure. Able to save lives.

I hope I can be like them one day. If YOU don't feel like you're up to the challenge today, just know that you're not alone. I question myself every night, and I know I'm not the only one. But if you want to get to Human Torch fire juggling status, I think it starts with confidence. So let me help you with that.

YOU ARE THE BEST TEACHER THEY CAN POSSIBLY HAVE AT THIS MOMENT. Some day, there will be another teacher who may be better at Math than you. Or may be one of those "engage them with music and dancing" kind of teachers. Maybe they won't write about you in their yearbooks in high school. But right now, tomorrow, in class - there is NO ONE BETTER than you available to teach these kids. You are THE BEST. So your best is going to be enough.

To all the teachers - the first years, the final "coasting through the last year" retirees, and all in-between - Thank you for educating our country. No one else could do it better.

Or at least they wouldn't. Because it's a crazy job, fo sho.

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