5 Things You Can Stop Worrying About
Let’s face it, there is plenty to worry about in our profession. Are our students learning? How does our community perceive us? Are our teaching methods evidence informed and effective? But there are also many things we might worry about that do nothing more than take up our precious energy and distract us from our core business.
Number 1 – How Pretty Your Classroom Is
Spending hours making your classroom look Pinterest perfect is, quite honestly, not the best use of your time. In the same time it took to create one of these bulletin boards, you could have written an amazing, engaging, knowledge rich unit of work based on a mentor text. Children don’t care about your displays. They care about feeling successful in their learning. Sure, displays are an important record of learning, but spending hours on them at the expense of your family, your down time or other time spent on crafting highly effective teaching is too high a price to pay.
Number 2 - That you aren't making your own resources
I don’t quite understand the need to make everything yourself from scratch. Teaching isn’t a cottage industry or crafting circle. If you are worried that you are a ‘lazy teacher’ if you use high quality, pre-prepared resources, don’t be. Phonics ‘programs’ aligned to the evidence of reading and knowledge rich curriculum resources are basics in my book. Using quality resources doesn’t (and shouldn’t) take away the requirement for you to plan or make decisions. Any resource is just a tool to organise and present content. Your knowledge of what you want your students to learn and how to help them do that is critical in being an effective teacher. Pre-prepared programs and resources can help you do that.
Number 3 – That Your Students Aren’t at the Same Place as the Students You See on Social Media
It’s really easy to feel that your students are miles behind everyone else when you see people sharing pictures of Foundation students producing full pages or writing. However, basing how you feel about your teaching on the social media posts of others is a recipe for discontent. Instead, keep your eye firmly on your own students’ growth in reading and writing. If your students start the school year 6 months behind expectations and end the year on par, then you have achieved an extraordinary feat. Remember, there will always be other teachers to compare yourself with. Some students will be ‘ahead’ of yours and some will be ‘behind’. Yours are the only ones that matter.
Number 4 – You Aren’t Teaching the Right Vocabulary
Two teachers can choose the exact same mentor text and choose completely different words to focus on in vocabulary lessons. Unlike phonics, vocabulary is not made up of a finite number of items and there is no magical list of vocab words that you must teach. No two classes or teachers will be the same, so don’t worry too much about finding the perfect words. Just choose words that your students will benefit the most from.
Number 5 – That You are Aren’t Doing Enough
The very fact that you may worry about this means that its unlikely to be the case. When it comes to doing ‘all of the things’ of structured literacy at a ‘gold standard’ level, I encourage you to aim high, but also be realistic. It is much better to be 'solid' in your literacy instruction across a range of areas than be a champion in just one. Consider how much of something is necessary for strong learning? Do you need to teach sentence structure explicitly every day or might one explicit lesson per week with many opportunities for practice be sufficient? Do you need to teach 15 vocabulary words a week or will 5 words taught in depth be enough?
If you find yourself losing sleep over any of the above matters, know that all will be well. Focus on what is important: moving your students from where they are to their next step in the most direct and engaging way possible. Aim for continual improvement in your teaching but don't expect that you'll do everything all at once. Learn from the experiences of others, but don't lose time comparing yourself to them. Your teaching journey is personal to you and remember - you won't break the children.