“Not every important decision is urgent and not every urgent decision is important.”
I put that in quotations because I know I read that or something similar to it somewhere, but I can’t remember where (I don’t have many original ideas, but have been blessed to know a lot of smart people with great ideas in my career). It is an important reminder this time of year because at the same time many of us are eagerly and understandably looking forward to some down time, many of us feel the pressure of the ticking clock that only gives us a little more precious time to make a difference with our students.
Particularly at the elementary level, we feel this pressure keenly. I’m not here to argue that we at the elementary level are more caring, dedicated, or compassionate than our colleagues at the middle or high school level, but there is a different dynamic at play. Having taught at both the middle and elementary levels, it is very different to have a student for 1 or maybe 2 periods a day than it is to have them 5-6 hours per day wiping away their tears, putting band-aids on their scraped knees, sharing the good moments and the bad. They just tend to climb into your heart a little deeper in the elementary.
Those of us who teach this level know that this time of year can bring stress and worry for our students. As an elementary classroom teacher you will hold more power and control in a student’s life than anyone else will exert at any other point in their education. After all we’ve invested in our students this school year, the end of the year can feel like they are getting ready to step off a cliff as they enter a new grade or even a new school. It can be difficult to give our trust away to the next teacher or school that they will care for and understand our students at the level we have cared and understood. We must take care though that our worry for our students doesn’t cloud our judgment about what is truly best long term for that student. Staying the course can sometimes be the best decision. Some problems take more than a year to fix. When making decisions for students, we can’t afford to be reactionary or hasty. Are our struggling students catching up or falling farther behind their peers? This is the key question that has been missing for too long from the conversation. Although some students may remain far behind their peers, looking at the data to determine the answer to this simple question can be very helpful and help us keep perspective at this sometimes stressful time of year. As many have pointed out, continually ratcheting up the time and intensity of our “intervening” can do more harm than good. It sounds strange, but something I am learning is that good decision making sometimes means doing nothing. More time can be all that is needed.
I have a great deal of respect for educators who come to school every day with their hearts on their sleeves. For them, teaching is so much more than a job. It is part of the fabric of who they are. They want to make sure that each student is successful to the highest level and I would expect nothing less from them. It can be difficult to see the growth students are making when we see them day after day. Students who don’t appear to be growing seem to come to school one day and be 4 inches taller. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Do what you can to make a difference every day. Continue to nurture, water, and weed our little flowers. A bloom is about to burst!
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week starts Monday! Thanks for all that you do to help my kids and so many others be all that they can be!