I worry about our dance parties. Do we have too many of them? Is there such a thing as too much dancing?
I worry about our artwork too. Clay, paint, wire, beads, pastels, collage, photography, murals… how much art is enough?
And the dramatic play – goodness, that never stops.
Then there are the marching bands and the singing – what a racket!
Is it all too much? When do we get down to the real school work? How will we know when we do?
I worry that other people think it’s too much, that parents may think it’s too much, that some nebulous person in the upper echelons may disapprove. My husband says I worry too much; he’s probably right.
Elementary school teachers have to be all things to all students. We have to teach everything; unlike our secondary colleagues we don’t have the luxury of teaching only to our strengths.
Don’t feel confident with History, Math, or Music? Too bad, you’re teaching it.
Fake it ’till you make it – that’s my usual advice. Kids pick up on your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) and if you present the material with a sigh, they’ll feel your wariness and trepidation and adopt it as their own. How much of our own math anxiety was actually inherited from teachers who themselves were anxious about teaching math? Young children love to play with numbers and quantity. How much of that excitement is drained away when teachers approach teaching math in the same way they approach a rendezvous with a root canal?
So, that’s my usual advice – find an entry point that you’re comfortable with, slap on a smile, and give er’. Say YES, as Tina Fey would advise.
But then I heard comedian Jessica Holmes speak at a conference. While much of her presentation was light and hilarious, toward the end she became more reflective. One of the the things she said that stuck with me was this:
“It’s harder to get good at something you’re bad at than it is to get better at something you’re great at.”
Hmm… that’s interesting advice for teachers. In education, we’re always looking for places to improve, doing gap analyses to find out where we can grow – usually that’s because there are things we’re not doing very well. You’ll get no argument from me that there are things we should improve in schools. I’m not suggesting that we stop trying, not at all. But, how often are we looking at things that we already do really well and asking ourselves how we can do them better? How often do we get to direct our energies towards our passions? How great would that be?!?
That’s where I’m at as we slide towards the summer holidays. We have 5 weeks left together and I’m going to keep the arts humming in my class. Not because we’re not working on the rest of the curriculum – we are – but because it’s what I’m great at and the kids deserve to be with adults who are pursuing their passions with a smile.