Teaching Opinion

No Matter How Well We Do, It’s Hard Not to Focus on ‘That One Thing’

By Starr Sackstein — April 19, 2018 3 min read
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Perfectionismis a disease not easily overcome, especially if you spend your whole life aspiring to it and honing your abilities. Once you establish there is no happiness or reality in it, you do well to maintain a program that keeps you focused on the positive, but every once in a while there is an inevitable relapse.

The bottom line is that I expect a lot from myself. Although I never want to let anyone else down, letting myself down is a downward spiral waiting to happen.

In my adult life, I’ve gotten much better at reframing the situation and refocusing on the growth aspect, really looking at the area as an opportunity for further growth and to be excited about that opportunity.

That being said, after surveying my team about advice for next year after my performance so far this year, I can’t help for hyper-focus on the one or two slightly (and not even horrible, honestly) critical pieces of feedback because it seeps in. I wonder what I could have done differently and if it would have mattered.

More importantly, it keeps me on my toes.

I know what I am capable of and I’m acutely aware of areas for growth. I’d totally rock that committee question if asked in terms of what I need to work on and how I would. Learning is such a key part of all of this and starting a new position in a new space is an exciting opportunity to really increase my learning curve—and boy did I this year.

This year I’ve learned about building school budgets (and now after taking an amazing school finance course have a completely different lens to approach it through next year). Seeing budgets as a strategic opportunity for growing staff and building better uses of time into what we do, instead of just looking at numbers, really seemed intuitive and right. I just didn’t know it could be done that way, and now that I do, I have a lot more questions to ask.

Asking questions is not a problem for me!

But what does kind of irk me is hearing folks say that I have acted in a top-down way when I have done everything in my power (at least by my own perception) to avoid that. As a classroom educator, there was nothing I disliked more than having someone tell me to do something I couldn’t get behind for kids and I NEVER want/wanted to do that to my team. So I’m disappointed in myself that even one person would feel that way.

So it causes some pause, which is good because I now have an opportunity to reevaluate what I have done, get more input, and approach the teacher to have a conversation—because I do truly want to do better, and not just next year, but now.

Time is such a valuable commodity and in schools, it is in scarcity; I appreciate that more than my team really knows. Valuing their expertise and knowledge of the district and their kids has been a driving force in my learning this year. And when I flip through the positive statements and hear that someone can recognize “that my heart is in the right place” or that “my positive attitude and feedback are appreciated,” I know that I’m doing a lot of things right.

The conversations will never end and I really do relish in even the greatest dissenters as they are at least comfortable enough to share their differing opinions. In my head, it is actually a win-win. I must have done something right if they feel like they are being heard even if we disagree!

In my classroom, I was quoted as saying, “I encourage disagreement!” And I do. That’s the only way we get better as a group. Sometimes, of course, criticism is hard to hear but so essential to growth, and I can appreciate that on both ends.

As I continue to reflect on my experiences this year, I will look deeply into my learning growth and challenges to set meaningful goals for the future and try not to be too hard on myself when things don’t go my way the first time. How can I possibly say to students or teachers that failure and mistakes are okay if I don’t allow myself to live by the same tenet?

So I’m taking a deep breath and I’m going to do better. That’s all I can do. I’m grateful for the opportunities and for the amazing people I work with who do great things for our kids.

How do you gather feedback from your team (students, teachers, administrators) to get better at what you do? Please share.

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