Everyday is an opportunity for me to wear a cape. I get to be a hero. I teach.
I get to help shape the minds and hearts of the next generation. I get to breathe life, belief, courage and confidence into eager, amazing, impressionable young students. My super-hero life is the dream profession.
Everyday also holds the opportunity for me to wear a mask. To live incognito. To feign a super-human persona.
It is the temptation to live life without authenticity. To hide behind the mask. To ask all the questions that my students need, and to have all the answers to their questions. To talk from a podium, and to live on a pedestal. To think being their hero means rescuing them from falling, and from failing.
But life is messy; superheroes live in animation; and this teacher is a perpetual work-in-progress.
We have many sayings and rituals in our classroom, but one of my favorites is celebrating mistakes. Highlighting errors. Underscoring our ability to learn from taking risks. When I make a mistake in front of the class, I proclaim “I was wrong, you were right…” and the students happily call out “GET USED TO IT.”
A few weeks ago, we welcomed a student teacher to our class. She has been amazing from the word go. She brings with her a vivacious energy, an audacious optimism, and an eagerness to soak up all the insights and instincts from the educators in our building.
What an awesome opportunity for me to model all the aspects of being a great teacher. What a tremendous opportunity to show her how to don her cape, as she takes on the hero role in the lives of students.
But internally, I felt the pull of putting on a mask. I wanted to show her how to do everything right, but not necessarily how I do everything. I wanted to mask the fact that I don’t have every aspect of every lesson planned out for the next few weeks, or for tomorrow. I wanted to mask the truth that sometimes my best efforts still leave parents disappointed. I wanted to conceal that I don’t always know how to connect with some of my socially “outlier” students. I wanted to cover up that I don’t know all the best ways to prepare my kids for the transition to the Common Core testing. I wanted to mask the fact that though I’ve been doing this for years, there are some things that she can already do better.
And I had to go back to my resolve to live life authentically, whether it is for my 3rd & 4th grade students, or my student teacher. I want to be a model. With a cape, not a mask. I want demonstrate perseverance, not perfection.
I want to model taking risks, knowing some of those efforts will fail.
I want to model taking ownership of my mistakes, and learning from them.
I want to model humility; willing to eagerly learn from students, and student teachers.
I want to model a safe environment, that embraces candor, questions, and quirks.
I want to model resiliency, falling down frequently, and getting up again, perhaps a little sore, but better prepared to soar.
Because being a hero sometimes hurts. Teaching students is heroic, not robotic. I’m not bullet-proof. The students might think I have eyes in the back of my head, but I know that my vision isn’t always 20/20. My cape has tatters and stains.
I’d rather be an authentic hero, than a super-hero. Because sometimes, I am wrong, and others are right. I’m getting used to it.