Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

I Have Confidence...

Well... not as much as I could.
In fact... I've learned to "fake it 'till I make it" when it comes to confidence.

When I was becoming an adult, before every interview, I'd blast Julie Andrews in the vehicle - "I Have Confidence." You know the one...

It continued with, "What will my future be... I wonder..."
I used this song to remind myself that I may, in fact, not get this particular job, but then it may not be right for me. I was going to go in, however, with the confidence that I SHOULD have this job! And, really, the only job I was not offered after singing this song was the job at Payless Shoe Source. đŸ˜‰

"I've always longed for adventure - to do the things I've never dared..."
And I'm doing the "things I've never dared" - I've been able to jump into Genius Hour, I'm currently going through the year without marks/points during each term (until the end when students and I come up with one letter for the parent report), and my colleagues and I are trusted to determine the curriculum (for now). I have a dream job - three 80-minute ELA classes of seventh graders.

"Captain with seven children. What's so fearsome about that?"
This song is also blasting in my vehicle the first day of school. Believe it or not, I get nervous about meeting children! After the first day, the nerves disappear.

I've realized, lately, that my nerves and my lack of confidence arise every October. When the grade is posted for my class, and I dread parent responses. (Oh, how I look forward to the day we have standards-based grading throughout the school!)

You see, even though I make it a point to send two-week updates and good notes home to parents, often the only time I receive emails from parents is when there is a problem.

Grades are personal. Sometimes parents care / worry / stress about their child's grade more than their child. And they let you know it.

Last October, I had a parent who hadn't read anything I'd sent home regarding how we were doing grades. I received the first email on a Friday after school. I finally felt mentally healthy enough to write in response to it this past January. My stress had manifested itself into a migraine, and they've come and gone since then. I had one this past week, in anticipation of backlash of what I've been practicing in class during parent/teacher conferences. This should NOT be the case. These conferences are for teachers and parents to discuss how each student is doing so far. Yet I get worried. Because I'm doing things differently from the other teachers. Even if I believe it is right and good for my students, I worry worry worry. The attack I received via email last year hit me hard. Since I don't want to give that parent any (more) power over me, I have got to learn to let the worry go.

"I must dream of the things I am seeking... 
I am seeking the courage I lack.
The courage to serve them with reliance. 
Face my mistakes without defiance. 
Show them I'm worthy, and while I show them, I'll show me. 
Soooo... Let them bring on all their problems.
I'll do better than my best.
I have confidence they'll put me to the test, but
I'll make them see I have confidence in me.
Somehow I will impress them. 
I will be firm, but kind."

I used to think this part of the lyrics were about the children (and they are, really). This year, however, I see them as referring to the parents when we meet - IF any issues arise.

What I've tried in the '17-'18 school year:
  • I don't check email after 4pm or on the weekends.
  • I take time to stop. And breathe. I had an app for a bit, but now I just need to remind myself to sit and focus on my breathing.
  • I go for walks.
  • I sing at the top of my lungs.
  • I dance around the house.
  • I get eight hours of sleep each night.
  • I focus on all I have in this life.

What I'll try during this '18-'19 school year:
  • All the things from the list above.
  • Stretch every day.
  • Repeat a mantra of some sort when I start to feel the stress.

I've got to remember...
"All I trust I give my heart to.
All I trust becomes my own."
I am so very passionate about teaching! So why do I dread a parent attack? Supposedly "no teacher goes unscathed," and I understand that parents SHOULD have a vested interest in their child's education. I have even received emails or hand-written notes in the past from parents and students that have melted my heart. I need to stop hiding them, and instead, bring them out and read them when I start to feel the stress in my neck that reaches around my head, makes me want to throw up and go back to bed. When this continues into a day or two literally full of physical pain, I need to stop and DO something about it. I do NOT have to have this stress build like this. I'm tired of this. I don't want it to become something that IS. I need it to be over and done. I need to have more confidence in myself. 

I need to make my mantra.
  • I do what I do for the children.
  • I am very passionate about my profession.
  • I give my students 103% every school day.
  • I make sure parents are kept up-to-date on all we're doing in class.
  • I've written a book on reasons WHY I've shifted my teaching.
  • I am a professional with 23 years of experience.
  • I have the support of my administration.
  • I read professional articles, books, and teacher blogs to help me learn and decide what's right and good for my current students.
  • I have been a pioneer at my school, helping other teachers try new things when it's right and good for their own students.
  • I will remember those parents who have thanked me profusely for teaching their children.

And IF. IF parents do get upset (which history shows they just might)... if it's my fault, I'll learn from my mistake. Big time. If it's not my fault, I'll have to wonder what's going on in their lives that they feel they need to attack. And then... I'll have to let it go (quicker than I've done in the past). After all, I'm not a surgeon. I don't watch to be sure a boiler doesn't explode. I'm not in charge of any part of the military. Lives are not at stake. I'm still doing all I can for the children in my charge.

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