Every fall I teach a differentiated instruction class at
Canisius College for teachers who are pursuing their
master's degree in differentiation. I LOVE this class
because they are my people: they get the need for
differentiated instruction and differentiated behavior
expectations, and they embrace the idea that every
student really deserves their own educational plan.
However, at some point in the semester, I have to have
“The talk” happens when one of my student’s lives
goes off the rails. We begin each class with what I
have dubbed a “coffee break” because every single
student walks in with their caffeine fix to get them
through a second shift of school, having already taught all day, and now getting to be with me for several
hours. It’s informal, but it allows us to check-in with
each other. Inevitably, after weeks of developing trust,
someone’s had a tough day and bursts into tears.
At some point, the teacher who had a terrible-horrible-no good-very-bad-day says something like
this, “I’m just not cut out for this. Everyone else is so
calm. The teachers at my school are better than me.”
Or, “My observation is going to be horrible. And of
course, I’m right after Little Ms. Perfect.” This is when
I interject with “the talk,” which I will share here, as
I believe all of us are back to being those first-year
teachers who question ourselves.
You’re all here because you believe that everyone
deserves to be treated as an individual who is
worthy and important. It doesn’t matter what
talents and strengths, weaknesses and faults,
our students bring to the table, we accept them,
encourage them, and value them. You have to give
yourself the same treatment. Sure, you might not
be the teacher who has the best tech integration, or
the Pinterest classroom, but you have the passions
that you bring with you, your philosophies about
the value of our students, and you do what is best
for kiddos. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison
is the thief of joy,” and that sentiment should be
the mantra of our times. The perfect Facebook
Family, the staged Instagram selfies, the calculated
tweet—we are all guilty of trying to be perfect,
but none of us will achieve it. Don’t let comparison
steal your joy.
For all of us veteran yet new teachers out there, I’d
add that you don’t have to have a Bitmoji Classroom,
but it is totally cool if you do. You don’t have to do read
alouds in your jammies, unless that’s you, which is
awesome. You don’t have to be anyone but you, the
teacher who does what’s best for your kiddos.
Amber Chandler is the coordinator of alternative
education and interventions for Frontier Central School
District in Hamburg, New York. She is a National Board
Certified ELA teacher, the 2018 AMLE Educator of the Year,
and a member of the AMLE Board of Trustees. Amber is
author of The Flexible SEL Classroom: Practical Ways to
Build Social Emotional Learning in Grades 4-8.
Published in AMLE Magazine
, October 2020.