Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Ideal and the Real

I write this post in the context of having a herniated disc in my back, lying on my bed with my legs propped up. Over the last several weeks, I've been spending most of time either lying down or standing with small periods of time spent sitting. I've injured my back before, and I think teaching is actually the perfect profession for me because it does not require a lot of sitting. 

This situation has prompted me to think about the ideal and the real in teaching. When I think of the ideal, I think of the following: what we know we SHOULD do, what we want to do, who we want to be. For instance, maybe we know that we should do hands-on minds-on lessons, that we should provide engaging before reading instruction prior to reading texts with our students, that we should plan engaging topics for discussion and come every day prepared, that we should read and comment on our students' assignments in constructive and substantive ways, that we should be ceaselessly positive and caring. We know we should do that. We have an ideal version of ourselves as teachers, as the people we aspire to be. 

Then, reality hits. We have to spend hours on our backs because we have a herniated disc. A family member gets sick. Or even simply--we want to spend time with loved ones, such as our children, and we find ourselves out of time and unable to reach the ideal.

I struggle with this tension constantly. I still have assignments to grade for tonight, a tenure/promotion binder to finish, a letter of intention for a grant application due tomorrow, and a lesson to plan. And my back exercises to do and my health to manage. Maybe I'm just a poor time manager, but I find myself in this type of situation a lot.

I think that previously, I would have sacrificed my sleep to get everything done, but now I have a greater concern for my health and am not willing to do that anymore.

I know this is a blog about literacy--but I think that who we are as teachers is related to everything, including the quality of instruction (and literacy instruction) to provide. I can imagine myself again as a secondary teacher, knowing that I SHOULD do things like provide before reading instruction but being mentally tired and not wanting to think about it. On the other hand, I don't think it's fair to let myself (or other teachers) off the hook by saying, "Oh, you're tired," or "Oh, your back is sore, so you don't have to provide quality instruction to your students."

I don't think there is any easy solution when I think about the tension between the ideal and the real. I have been teaching for 15 years and still this is something I struggle with on an ongoing basis. But I do think that by sharing with each other--our struggles and triumphs, our lesson plans, our frustrations, that we can come to a more comfortable place in our minds, our hearts, and our teaching. 

1 comment:

  1. I was comforted by this post as I read it. My biggest, BIGGEST fear about becoming a teacher is that I will sacrifice my health and personal relationships in order to excel in the classroom. I watched this happen to my mother, who was also a teacher. She never slept, I swear. She didn't eat regular, healthy meals. She rarely relaxed. On the flip side, she was the most inspirational, organized, entertaining, loving, compassionate, brilliant teacher one could imagine. However, her pursuit of the ideal consumed her. She became ill, and ended up losing her life because of it. Now, I know myself all too well; I am exactly like her, so you can imagine why I am terrified by this aspect of teaching, the aspect that has the potential to damage me. I am working every day to overcome my imbalances in life.

    I say that I was comforted by this post because I find great strength in hearing from experienced teachers who have struggled with the same issues but have found some way to balance health, relationships, and teaching in a peacable way. It gives me hope! Thanks for posting.