Everyone experiences those moments when you get a little (or a big) wakeup call. You know what I’m talking about. They are those times when reality hits you upside the head and forces you to reconsider how you do things and what you are really made of. I experienced one of those this week. I pride myself in thinking that I am pretty good at what I do and that my passion for my work — and life in general is what sets me apart from others. I certainly don’t think I’m better than anybody else, but I feel fairly confident in my abilities. My experiences this week have me shaking my head. It is no secret that I am working toward building my portfolio in the hopes of a successful tenure bid next spring. That means I need to provide evidence that I am an excellent teacher, researcher and community servant. Individually, those are all goals that I believe that I can easily accomplish. It’s the whole simultaneous part that is challenging for me.
I have never professed to be good at multi-tasking. I can’t remember anything if I don’t write it down. I absolutely hate voice mail and email. I’m not sure of the reason. Maybe it’s ADD. Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t use my hands and facial expressions to express myself with today’s technology. Whatever it is, it has struck a nasty blow on me yet again. I received my teaching evaluations this week. As I scanned the pages, I couldn’t help but think “who is this broad that these students hated so much?” The person they described sounded nothing like me. I was shocked and dismayed. I had to go home and take a nap. How could I stink that bad?
I did much better with the students that I met with face-to-face. The experience made me think about who I am as a teacher and who I want to be. Is it that I’m just not that good at this (or at least the online part) and should pack up my tent and find something else to do? Sure, I could make excuses about problems with the textbook, and technology associated with it. I could whine about the craziness in my personal life. I could rationalize away the entire experience if I wanted to, but that would be unprofessional. I have to own my shortcomings.
I’ve always taken the approach that I want to be the best (or at least really good) at something or else I don’t want to do it. Sometimes though you can’t be perfect — and certainly not at everything. So, what do I do here? Am I a bad teacher? Am I a bad online teacher? Should I stop teaching — or at least teaching online? People face these types of questions all the time — especially with money. I’m always amazed when people tell me that they are terrible at managing money so they don’t. How does that work?! I guess I would be giving in to the same type of foolishness if I proclaimed that I’m a bad teacher and therefore plan to stop teaching. I think I’ve spent so much time focusing on the things I enjoy and excel in and trying to further those things that I have neglected my weaknesses. I am great in the classroom and love interacting with my students week after week. I stink online. It’s hard to be passionate about faceless names on a computer screen and delivering lectures without ever touching a piece of chalk. It’s just not my ‘thing’. I guess that doesn’t matter — I’m better than this.
So what do we do when we realize a glaring weakness? Do you find someone else to complete the task on your behalf or revamp your program? If the task is part of your job, I supposed you had better figure out how to make some changes! I think the biggest thing is that you don’t just lie down and do nothing. So 10 students were not all that impressed with my work this spring. Is it fair to the 110 who are counting on me this summer to just not show up? I think we all fail at times. I could go through the list of famous people who experienced failure and then went on to greatness, but you know what I’m talking about. It is at these moments that our true ability and character shows. I’m in a slow process of unloading the many things that are weighing on my heart and mind these days so I can get back to that ‘streamline’ position where I can focus on just a few things that really matter. This is simply another sign that this process is very needed. I AM good at what I do. I just need to tweak my system a little bit. I guess that’s the message today. There will always be adversity. That’s when your true strength shows. Just wait until you see my real muscles!