All I Can Do Is All I Can Do And That Has To Be Enough For Me

July 11, 2010

For Friday, July 9, 2010

Note: I am in a motel once again—out of town teaching, and, as usual, connectivity is not all that I might wish!

Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects. Pessimism is a waste of time. • Norman Cousins

In December 1969, a Gallup Poll asked people in the United States this question: For people like yourself, do you think the world will be a better place to live in ten years from now?

Of those who responded to the poll, thirty-nine percent felt it would be better. Eighteen percent thought it would stay the same, twenty-seven percent didn’t think it would be as good, and six percent had no opinion.

Criticism and pessimism destroy families, undermine institutions of all kinds, defeat nearly everyone, and spread a shroud of gloom over entire nations. • Gordon B. Hinckley

I was reminded of this poll by a student presentation that focused on class size. What I appreciated most was the group’s commitment to providing us with inspiring ideas about what teachers can do regardless of the size of their classes. As a relentless optimist, I am not unaware of life’s realities, but I am determined to try to maintain a positive outlook, particularly when it comes to education.

Pessimism is a very easy way out when you’re considering what life really is, because pessimism is a short view of life. If you take a long view, I do not see how you can be pessimistic about the future of the man or the future of the world. • Robertson Davies

Hope is one of the things I’m selling as an educator. If teachers aren’t optimists, what’s the point of our profession? Why bother teaching anyone anything? I have to believe that my work with students will make a difference for them and that they will make a difference for others. I have to believe that I can do this regardless of the size of the class or the equipment or materials I have. I have to believe in the power of my ingenuity and intention. This doesn’t mean that I think I can change the world. But I can affect small bits of it and my efforts, combined with those of others like me, matter.

The world may end tomorrow. But it may not, and if it doesn’t, people will need to know how to live in it.

Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. • Martin Luther King Jr.

So, what do you think? For people like yourself, do you think the world will be a better place to live in ten years from now?

Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A word of optimism and hope. And you can do it when things are tough. • Richard M. Devos



  1. This year was hard. It was really, really, awfully damn hard, and I don’t think there is any other way to say it. I did my best to maintain my optimism and stay energetic, enthusiastic and positive, but I have to be honest: it didn’t always work. Sometimes I was stressed out with school, other times the kids were having a bad day, and there were times when I was just plain tired. I know that I did my best to appear optimistic at all times, and I guess we would have to ask the students whether I succeeded at this or no, but, despite my bad days, I know that I will leave this grueling MAT program certain of two things: I gave it all I had, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
    Whether it was planning lessons, putting together my work sample, or just completing assignments for class, I can honestly say that I never created anything that was below my potential. I put in the time, work and effort to make sure that all I turned in or presented to my students was of the best quality that I possibly could, and often times this pursuit of ‘greatness’ stressed me out and was ridiculously exhausting. However, I have learned from my time student teaching that this is the life of a teacher so I better get used to it. Through all of the sleepless nights, endless stacks of papers to grade, hours and hours of lesson planning and the countless amount of time spent making copies – or in my case, fixing the jammed copy machine – I am so proud of myself because I can look back now and know that I fought all the way to the end.
    This all may sound like I’m throwing a pity party for myself, but given the chance to go back and change things I would do it all over again. I might procrastinate less, smile more, be less hard on myself, and actually try to enjoy my time in this program, but I would in no way change my decision to pursue a teaching career. As the year winds down I’ve noticed that I feel prepared to have my own classroom, despite the butterflies that form in my stomach at the thought, so bring it on because this girl is ready.

  2. I love “procrastinate less, smile more, be less hard on myself, and actually try to enjoy. . .” What wonderful advice for a first year teacher! W-OZ

  3. Who am I as a teacher?

    As a teacher, I am an educator.
    To educate allows you to enter the life of a student and walk with them.
    To educate means so much more than to prepare for a test.
    It permeates all aspects of life,
    It does not stop at the classroom.
    And educator prepares for success,
    Setting the bar and supporting those reaching for it.

    As a teacher, I am a guide.
    To define the journey … use life.
    Life does not quite, and it does not come with a manual.
    We all need a guide, a helper,
    Someone pointing the way beyond ourselves and to something more.
    To guide is to walk beside.

    As a teacher, I am a refuge.
    When the storm blows … and blows … and blows;
    When the torrent never stops, where can you turn?
    Abandoned, alone, afraid, an all too familiar trio.
    Can a room be a refuge?
    When shoulders slump under the weight of life,
    When a head looks down, afraid others will see,
    When eyes are sad, too sad to even ask why.
    Can a room be a refuge?
    A room can be a place for you to be you.
    A room can be silence and comfort.
    A room can be a place to sit and know someone cares.
    Yes, a room can be a refuge.

    As a teacher, I am a resource.
    Until life comes with instructions, we will always need answers.
    Until a teenager actually does know everything,
    Or all is so simple a caveman can do it,
    Or you never ever never know.
    A teacher is a resource.

    As a teacher, I teach who I am.
    I am a lover of life, people, and truth.
    I am amazed by freedom and still getting use to the power of it.
    I am one who longs for wholeness, both for me and others,
    One who sees the pain of life and actually weeps over it,
    One who needs and cherishes forgiveness.
    I am a teacher.

  4. As a teacher, I am delighted. As a poet, I am delighted. Thanks so much for this–it’s truly lovely and exceedingly meaningful. W-OZ

  5. Today one of my about-to-graduate seniors surprised me with a vase of purple daisies and a thank-you card that said I am “an awesome student teacher and will make an amazing teacher.”

    At home, as I set them on my counter, I listened to a “no thanks” phone call from a district where I had interviewed several weeks ago. Even though I had already accepted the possibility that I might not be offered the job, the rejection still gave me that disheartening feeling that I recognize from job searching during my post-bachelor’s working years before I began the MAT program. I thought about the students who I wouldn’t be teaching. What do they care about? Who do they want to be when they grow up?

    As I set the phone down, the first thing I noticed was the flowers, lavender bursts of hope against a dingy counter (which needs a dedicated cleaning after my year of student teaching, work samples, graduate classes, and trying to squeeze work in between everything). Their subtle yet sweet scent reminded me of why I went into teaching in the first place.

    This year has showed me just how much I love working with students, and I’ve also learned that I have a knack for connecting with teenagers. More than the fear of not being employed (since I currently have a non-teaching job), the possibility of being a substitute instead of a classroom teacher next year is vexing because I wouldn’t have as much of a chance to get to know my students.

    While I looked at my student’s floral thank you, I thought about the non-teaching ways I could reach teens through tutoring, mentoring, or volunteering with ASPIRE again. I don’t know what I’ll be doing when classes start in September, but for now I’m going to enjoy these last few days of school with my seniors and watch them cross the stage on graduation night. We’re all on the precipice of possibility, and I hope they’re as excited as I am.

  6. I love the” precipice of possibility” and I know from experience in my own life how disappointing those phone calls can be, but I also love the spirit of resilience that shines through here. W-OZ

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