Some days, doing "the best we can” may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front — and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.
I believe in the capacity of students to learn and progress and be valuable members of the communities. I’m talking about students who are, for the most part, written off or ignored by even my large, progressive county with many resources. I believe in them, I champion them, and I help them succeed one day, one hour, one step at a time. I do my best.
I love these children. As you have probably learned by now, I am hard on myself when things don’t work for them, or between me and the other professionals who support them, in the way I want them to.
I knew going into this profession that it can be a thankless job at times. I get my satisfaction from the constant joy in my interactions with my students, their success, their perseverance, their progress on problem behaviors, their baby steps toward functional academic, communication, and social skills. There are days I go home feeling like we’ve taken two steps backward after one step forward, but that’s the nature of teaching.
I just wouldn’t mind an increased level of support—not cheerleading or applause, but an open ear and a tone of appreciation—from some of my administrators, which I don’t feel like I have gotten thus far. I expected more action to result from my concerns about a violent student. I expected administrators to spend time in my classroom to see how staffing problems contributed to ineffective support and other safety issues for a medically fragile student. When confronted with a complaint from a support staff member about my reaction to my frustrations, I expected I would be heard and responded to without accusation, especially considering an administrator has not stepped foot in my room for more than five minutes since the first quarter of my first year, two years ago.
Expectations are just that, feelings of what should happen, and I think that it’s part of a new teacher’s development to learn how to adjust to management styles and unexpected and sometimes unpleasant interactions with other staff. I believe that I know the multi-faceted needs of some complex students with cognitive disabilities and that I have had a great deal of success with innovative and dynamic strategies. I don’t do it for the purpose of accolades or pats on the back.
Have other new or older teachers out there gone through this before? The feeling of doing your best and yet having your success in the classroom and in the IEP process not only going unappreciated, but sometimes getting lost in petty disputes and administrative politics?
I simply adore my students. I believe in the potential of these remarkable kids who many other professionals see as lost causes. Their hugs, their smiles, their counting to four correctly and going from nonsense babbling to two- or three-word functional phrases is all the gratification I really need. But it would be nice to have the support of those who make the big decisions. It would be nice for them to see how the hours I spend creating unique differentiated cross-curricular instruction allows my students to have success, no mater how small it may be or how long that might take.
I don’t need a pat on the back. But I wouldn’t mind the feeling of shared success that comes from real classroom interaction with administrators and other professionals. It’s part of what keeps you going when you’re black and blue and at the end of your rope. Sharing in the affection, enthusiastic learning, and excitement about the students’ progress really lights up my days.
I’m struggling to make Mr. Rogers’ perspective my own: Doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else. Is anyone else struggling with this as well?