Social media can really skew our view of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but the more I see people’s perfect families, perfect houses, and perfect lives, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. It can make my gratitude meter run a little low. However, in this month of gratitude, I want to be very intentional to be thankful for the imperfect.
Three Ways I’m Still Grateful for the Imperfect
Specifically in teaching, when you have a whirling dervish of thirty students or more, there will be imperfect moments. Plenty of them. It’s time, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful for those classroom days that don’t always work out as they should. Or the things that seem to be imperfect expectations placed upon us. The tasks that we vow we wouldn’t put on people if we were in charge. If we take time to be conscious of what the blessings behind the imperfections are, we won’t have to yearn for someone else’s happy social media life; we might just have a happier life ourselves.
Imperfection #1: Others’ Expectations
It wasn’t the worst part of teaching, but having to write lesson plans wasn’t the best part either. When I taught at my most recent high school, we had to write very detailed lesson plans. I could get so stressed out trying to write exactly the perfect plan in case of observation and adding all the ways I was going to differentiate or substitute or color code. You get the drift.
But here’s the deal and the blessings in that imperfect expectation. Now I can teach anywhere. Ask me to go to a conference and I can quickly write at least a rough draft of my plan in no time. Ask me even to teach at church, and my lesson is ready to go. I now can form an outline in my head, and lesson planning for any situation is much quicker. As a tech coach, I’m able to quickly direct teachers in their own lesson planning to add the right technology application or lesson hook or check for understanding to their lessons. If I hadn’t worked so hard in my own lesson planning, which was definitely imperfect, I would never have been able to do any of what I can do now.
Imperfection #2: Technology
Oh technology. As a coach now but also as a classroom teacher, don’t I know that it the tech we love is sometimes the tech we love to hate. It’s imperfect when we need it to be more than that. When I was coaching in the middle school two years ago, our whole school launched OneNote pretty successfully. However, the very next year, our district decided to switch to Canvas Learning Management System. It was a great switch, however, the thing that people had just gotten used to they were now being asked not to use anymore.
It’s never ideal to launch something in a big way and then abandon it in favor of something else the next year. Here are the blessings I found in that in imperfect situation, though. By preparing ourselves with OneNote the year before, we now were doing things we never could have done before. We were no longer having to require kids to bring a pencil or remember to write a name on a paper or even keep up with a paper, for goodness sake. Even when technology doesn’t work, we’re still further along than we used to be. It gives us a chance as teachers to model perseverance despite frustration. It also allows us to break down the instant/microwave speed that students think should accompany every task. If we model viewing the positive through the imperfect, we and the students are able to practice the gratitude we say we celebrate this month.
Imperfection #3: My Own Failures
Probably the hardest place to forgive or even be thankful for imperfection is when we mess up as a teacher. I messed up so many times in the classroom, but one of my most recent snafus actually involves my first year as a tech trainer.
Picture this: I had ninety high school students in a room with no whiteboard on which to project my technology lesson, of all things. Recipe for disaster, right? Well, one of my pupils was a boy who had been very hateful the year before when I taught at the same school and had lunch duty. He never would clean up his trash and then would even have an attitude about it. Well of course I recognize this kid, so in a situation that was already frustrating, he and I exchanged some words. I felt terrible, of course, because I was the adult and should know how to be more professional. I let my emotions get in the way. The worst part was that this encounter was on a Friday, and I had to think about it all weekend. What did he think about my words? Worst of all, would he tell his parents on me, haha? Monday morning, I determined to be at his first period class. As soon as he got there so that we could talk, I was able to apologize to this kid, and he actually apologized to me as well. Come to find out, this kid could have been showing off for his friends in lunch was actually very pleasant in real life and very forgiving of me for having lost my temper.
Here’s what I learned from the situation; We can be thankful when we mess up because that disaster gives us an opportunity to be raw and vulnerable and model for student what it’s like to be human. To model for students what it’s like to apologize sincerely. To model for students what it’s like to eat some humble pie and be a little nervous when we’re worried that our actions will have bad consequences. In my story, three blessings came out of one situation that was imperfect for sure and could have been much worse.
The Takeaway: Grateful is Possible
Whether it’s the time we spend on our imperfect attempt to meet impossible requirements or the technology that doesn’t work when we really need it to or the times we mess up as people with our students, we must still be grateful. We are living a life that, although it’s not perfect, makes a difference in young people every day. What other job in the world allows one person to impact so many over the course of a career? In my sixteen years, I’ve impacted well over a thousand students. Some of them probably experienced a negative impact, but so many more were impacted for the positive. And whether I ever hear from them again, or whether I’m ever featured in their perfect social media post, I have something to be grateful for. And I don’t even to be perfect to appreciate it.
What have been your imperfect moments that still made you grateful? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.
With Tech and Twang,