As a teacher, what do you do when your best isn’t good enough? And more importantly, what do you when your students’ best isn’t good enough? And maybe better questions are, “Was the effort put forth that person’s maximum effort? Did I put forth my maximum effort? Most likely, the answer is “No.” Even though we say we have put forth our best effort, generally we have put forth enough to receive the desired reward, grade, recognition, or the minimum amount required. Our best is usually situational and often curtailed by fear.
Carol Dweck talks about this in her book “Mindset“.
The idea of trying and still failing—of leaving yourself without any excuses—is the worst fear within the fixed mindset
The negative voice in your head will continue to haunt you, “I have done everything I can do, and it’s still not good enough.” This moment is the time that a lot of us: students, teachers, and administrators give up.
This fear haunts us in multiple areas of our lives. For example, relationships, especially in Middle School. Most students walk around wearing masks. Not real masks, but metaphorical masks that hide who they really are. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know who they are, or like who they are, but most of the time it is because they feel “safe” not putting their authentic selves out there for everyone to see. Why, because there is the chance that people might not like what they see. So, they always hold a little bit back. As teachers we see this in our students, but can we identify this in ourselves.
This fear and feeling of inadequacy are big reasons why teachers are fearful of observations or allowing coaches/mentors in the classroom to coach or observe. It’s why we keep our mouth shut when a new idea or concern arises. Or why we are scared to “try new things” or implement changes in our teaching style or classroom management. It might not work. We might fail. The fear of failure is greater than the joy of success, so we don’t try. Our students need to see what failure looks like, but more importantly, they notice and absorb how we react to that failure. They need to see how to we handle it, they need to talk about it and eventually overcome it.
These small moments that happen so often are the moments when we need to show resolve, determination, and grit. These are the moments when we need to shift our way of thinking. Again, Dweck says, “Success is about being your best self, not about being better than others; failure is an opportunity, not a condemnation [or result].” Continued effort is vital to our success, you deserve better, our students deserve better, and our schools deserve better. We all deserve each other’s best self.
It’s summer I get it. The school year is approaching fast I get that as well; I challenge you to pick one item a week and do it better, in fact, do it your best.