My Terrible/Horrible/No Good/Very Bad Day.

If I write about IT will I seem pathetic? Do I write about IT and try to seem wise?  Do I avoid writing about IT and try to seem super-together and expert-like?  Or do I just quit blogging????

This is what has been running through my mind ever since I agreed to write a blog post this week.

Because more than any other topic, I have been wanting to write about my Terrible, Horrible, No Good/Very Bad Day.

Yeah, I know, blogs on education websites are meant to be inspirational, educational and/or motivational. Hopefully, authentic will pass muster and will help out my fellow teachers as we do our best with the best that we have.

How Terrible/Horrible/No Good/Very Bad Days have I had this year?  For the first time in all my years teaching, I struggled to connect with the students and teach the material in a fun and engaging way that I enjoyed. This threw me for a loop because until this year, I was the teacher whose classroom was inviting and exciting. I was the teacher whose curriculum got downloaded from websites and was blogging about creative ways to reach each student. This year was very different. So many factors aligned to make this year challenging. Every teacher has those things that are challenging. I just had a lot at once but these individual challenges is not what is important to focus on.

So why do I want to write about Terrible/Horrible/No Good/Very Bad Days if I am not going to analyze how to prevent them or have the fun of gossiping, blaming or being defensive?

I’m writing about it for the teacher who thinks they are the only one who can’t seem to pull off a collaborative group activity that combines spirituality and literacy while fostering social skills and classroom culture in an appropriately differentiated lesson.

I’m also writing this for the co-teachers and administrators who see a colleague struggling with a class and want to reach out rather than isolate and judge.

There were a few people who were very helpful and I hope we can all aspire to provide that support for our friends.

One day was a doozy – I was just ready to cry. There were so many factors outside my control and nothing would be different the next day.  I talked it over with a colleague, but we both realized I was not yet ready to hear practical suggestions nor would any make that much of a difference. The advice she offered turned out to be the most practical and useful advice I have ever received from any education professional. It is worth repeating to anyone who will listen and implementing every day.

My colleague asked me if I had prayed before I entered the classroom. When I heard this advice, I was taken aback. After all, I was the Orthodox Jew teaching religion while she was the non-Jewish secular studies teacher. She repeated the idea and told me that some days that was the best and only thing she could do to reach a hard class.

What awesome advice! I preach all day about the power of prayer but never thought to do it myself. For all my training and creativity, I had forgotten about bringing G-d into my classroom and my work. Recognizing that it is not all up to me and there are factors that are outside my control has been a powerful spiritual experience. And so I have begun praying to teach, to reach and to educate. Because it’s really not about my skills and training after all.

The second colleague who helped me told me about batting averages. I shared with her a lesson where I felt I failed. Struck Out. I couldn’t believe how badly the lesson had gone. When I shared with other people, their reaction just reinforced my shame since they NEVER had such an issue. This colleague thankfully took a different tack. She told me that batters are considered super-stars if they have over a .300 average. That means that seven out of ten times they strike out. Rather than harping on failures, I should look at the long term. Every day won’t be a home run. But if I was able to keep working at it, I would still be in the game. Everybody has bad days, great days and mediocre days. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or in denial. We need to focus on successes and learn from our mistakes and keep moving.

The third person didn’t even realize he was motivating me after a hard week. We hosted a scholar-in-residence for dinner. This scholar really lived up to his title; he is a recognized super-genius who is well known for his brilliance. I had a hard time arguing with him, which came in handy as you will soon see.

We were talking Jewish education, and I, parroting the doomsday talk that I read, was bemoaning the state of Jewish education. The scholar looked at me and said that he thought we were doing pretty well on the whole. Our communities have so many Day School Graduates who are Shomer Shabbat and Kashrut, far more than could be imagined a generation ago.

I countered with some negativity that is featured regularly in the popular Jewish media. He repeated his assertion that on the whole, the sky is not falling and we are doing OK.

How refreshing it was for me to hear! There is so much negativity about the work we do that it can be draining. Having a positive perspective made the job so much more hopeful and enjoyable. True, there are problems, nothing is perfect, but challenges are very different from crises. Surprisingly, the positive outlook helped my teaching improve far more than the critiques that we are accustomed to sharing.

So IF you ever have a Terrible/Horrible/No Good/Very Bad Day, before you do anything else remember
1. Pray
2. Nobody’s Perfect
3. As a whole, we’re doing Pretty OK
and most importantly
4. Reach out. Everyone has Terrible/Horrible/No Good/Very Bad Days. The more that teachers support each other, the better the next day will be.

And, finally, because it is June, use the next few months to recharge and refresh for a Wonderful/Fantastic/Awesome/Very Good Day (Week,Month,Year) in September.