When I was in the Faculty of Education, I had a placement in a Grade 4/5 class. I taught science all afternoon on rotary, and I worked with a teacher that had her Masters Degree in science. She knew it all. And I struggled in science … I mean I really struggled! We were teaching Rocks and Minerals at the time, and students had to conduct different tests to identify various rocks and minerals. I had an answer guide, but the rock and mineral samples kept on getting mixed up. One student was certain that he was holding a diamond sample, and while I knew that this didn’t make sense, I also couldn’t figure out any reason to tell him that he was wrong. I was at such a loss. I’ve really never felt more unsure of myself as a teacher. Every night, I went home and I studied. I read everything there was to read about science, and I tried to educate myself enough to answer all of the student questions on this subject. I really felt like I needed to know it all.
I’ve been teaching for almost 10 full years now, and until this year, I always felt like it was my job to be the “expert” on everything. The students were looking to me for all of the answers. My job was to have them. Then things changed. Thanks to my amazing Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter, I learned that it’s okay if I don’t know it all. I learned that students can teach each other too and that it’s okay to ask for help.
All of my students know that I have limited artistic skills. When the year started, I used to demonstrate all of the art lessons, but my demonstrations often led to more questions than answers. I was frustrated, and my students were too. Then I started seeing how many talented artists I have in my class. I started to get help from these students. I would let them model what to do, and the quality of all of the art improved.
Tonight though, I realized the value in admitting that I need help. As the year comes to an end, I’m trying to get some student work organized to send off to the Ancaster Fair. I brought home the work tonight along with the fair tickets too. After I finished filling out the tickets, I stared at them and at the work. Then I looked again. I just couldn’t figure out how to attach the tags. I tried all kinds of different options, but nothing seemed to work. Finally I emailed the staff and asked for help. As I sent off the email, I felt this funny feeling inside. I felt like a failure.
Then I got this lovely email from an Educational Assistant (EA) that works in the classroom. She said to me, “Aviva, don’t worry! I’ll help you with this tomorrow.” I know that this is a small thing, but this EA’s email made me feel so much better. She didn’t make me feel like I failed. She reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help.
That’s when I thought of my students. I think that students need to see us asking for help. I think that we need to model that we don’t have all of the answers. This doesn’t make us failures; this makes us better teachers. Tonight, I know how my students feel when they’re struggling, and I hope that I always give them the same wonderful support as this EA gave me!
When have you struggled? How do you think that this has made you a better teacher? I’d love to hear your thoughts!