The lesson was going great. Discussions were facilitating deep thinking, work was getting done, kids were talking about their reading without my prompting. Then I saw him: Head down, possible drool pool hiding beneath the pillow he constructed out of his arms. As I went to gently shake him awake, I thought, Shoot–how did I miss that? I had been furiously conferencing with other students and must have been turned the other way. Almost simultaneously, I heard a student–who generally favors the hyperbolic statement–say, It is so freezing in here. I HATE THIS CLASS.
And then it started to go.
Matthew Quick’s character, Bartholomew Neal, would call it the angry man in his stomach.
Oskar Schell would claim he was getting heavy boots again, and might pinch himself for his shortcomings.
Julia Cameron dismisses it as the Inner Critic.
The Bible would call them lies spun by the enemy.
Either way, the moment I hear a negative comment, see a student who has slipped through the cracks for five minutes, or stare at all the red in my grade book for hopeful graduating seniors, I can’t seem to quiet that voice–whatever you choose to call IT–no matter how many times I attempt to smother or extinguish the flame.
IT says: You’re the worst teacher on the planet.
What makes you think you can change the world, or even one class period, one student?
They say you’re doing a great job, but what does anyone really know? Don’t they just see what you present to them?
And worst of all, God didn’t place you here, He probably just forgot for awhile, and this is where you ended up.
Amateur. Inadequate. Soft. Never Enough.
Forget the fact that I know all these thoughts are false. They plague my mind daily, hourly, sometimes even by the minute. So what is it that allows me to take the few negatives as failures, even when juxtaposed with many more positives?
In response to one of my messages one day, my friend and trusted mentor, Amy, called it The Savior Complex. We want to save all the students–ALL OF THEM. And by save, I mean engage, facilitate growth in life and learning, help them to feel loved and valued, encourage their ambitions and challenge them each and every day.
Seems doable. (Not that I set lofty goals or anything.)
It’s my goal in these last few weeks to focus on the positive and deal with the negative. I don’t want one to replace the other. I don’t want to only see the positive, because that would take away the growth. I just want to give each one its due in contributing to what I speak to myself each day.
Just like I tell my students: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t dream of saying to someone else.
How do you deal with that Angry Man in your stomach or the Inner Critic? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. (Can 11 weeks qualify as “a few?”)
Note: This post was originally published on Jessica Jordana.
Jessica Paxson is an English IV and Creative Writing teacher in Arlington, TX. She frequently feels as though someone made a mistake in allowing her to hold the futures of over 100 teenagers in her jittery, over-caffeinated hands for the past two years. If you enjoy watching her make a fool of herself by being unbearably vulnerable, you can catch more of that over at www.jessicajordana.com. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @jessjordana.