November 10, 2021

Thomas Rademacher: What Do I Need as a Teacher? Time to do the Most Important Part of My Job Well.

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2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Thomas Rademacher talks about the frustrating limits in teaching these days, and all days. 

I hate being bad at this.

I hate being bad at this, but I’m doing it often enough that I have my own “losing my shit” checklist. It goes like this:

  • Snap at the little stuff, stuff I would normally laugh off or coach through.
  • Threaten to teach from text books or use grammar worksheets.
  • Go sit at my desk for a while.
  • Overcompensate with excitement and disproportional praise
  • Step into the hallway. Passing colleague asks if I’m ok.
  • Give up on the little things
  • Try to have a Heart to Heart with the class
  • Heart to Heart turns into a blamey lecture.
  • Sit on the back counter.
  • That one kid who gets it asks if I’m ok.
  • Yell/Plead to the whole class even though it’s like three kids I’m talking to
  • Step back into the hallway. Passing colleague just says “yup” because they’re losing their shit too.
  • Sit back at desk, put head in hands.

I’m trying so hard to be good, but bad just keeps sneaking up on me, pouncing when I’m too tired or distracted or overwhelmed to notice.

I’ve been going to bed early because I’m too tired to stay awake. I’ve been going to bed early because my brain can’t focus at night so I know I’ll need the hours in the morning. I’ve been going to bed early trying to race the sadness that hits when I’m still for too long.

It’s absurd to me that this year, after last year and after the year before it, we are doing anything other than healing. This should be a year of simple. This should be a year when every non-essential thing is stripped away and every arm we can manage is wrapped around our students to welcome them back into something that feels solid, feels stable, feels human.

All of us are tired. All of us are doing too much. When everyone is working beyond their capacity already, even a good idea can be a bad idea. What I need most is help doing the most important part of my job well, which this year means my days should be devoted to the students in my room.

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