I have ridiculously high expectations for myself. Borne of a need to not let my students down, I seek to reach each of them, helping them to see what they are capable of. I walk a fine line of accepting this truth: Rabbi Tarfon said: "It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either" Pirkei Avot (2:16). While this bit of wisdom is meant to apply to repairing the world (tikkun olam), I do see this directive in my everyday experiences as a teacher.
Much has been written and proven about a middle school child's need to find a champion/mentor/VIP outside of the family unit. I firmly believe that finding an adult connection as the adolescent moves to awareness of self-identity is critical to healthy development. I am often surprised by the relationships that develop. Many times,I think I recognize a student with whom I expect to "click," only to find that I was not what that child needed. It is important for me, for my self-preservation, to consciously acknowledge that this is okay. I cannot, should not, be the champion of every student who walks though my door. Despite my best efforts to give students an incredible learning experience and safe place for self-expression, some students have needs I simply cannot provide. At those times, I remember:
This is okay. It does not mean I am a failure. It means someone ELSE has what that child needs right now. This is okay.
Repeat until the message sinks in.
I have a tendency to think I am the one doing something wrong when I see a student continuing to struggle or refuse to reach his or her potential. The truth is that, sometimes, absolutely nothing I can do would make a difference. Rather than work harder than I already do to try and help that student turn the corner, perhaps I need to let the experience do the job. At those moments, I seek to find the balance between acknowledging the short amount of time I have to make a difference, and the understanding that life is a journey - both for the student and for me. I am my own harshest critic. Keeping the reality of "It takes a village to raise a child" in the forefront of my thoughts will keep ME grounded in reality for all of my students.
May it be a good year for each of us.