It’s nearing the end of the semester and I am having a case of the “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda” (SCW). And I know why. I set myself up for it each semester.
My husband knows that at the start of each semester, I am literally a nervous wreck. I stress out about every little detail about my syllabus. Do I have enough copies for each of my 16 weeks of class? Is my Blackboard page set up? Have I selected the right CGI videos to show? Will my students feel supported? Have I fixed all of the little errors in my Powerpoint slides that I have used for years and have promised each year to fix? And I stress about all of this long before the start of the semester. I stress like this each time for the past 16 years that I have been teaching. Everyone who knows me, knows the four stages of Craig right before the start of the semester:
Interestingly, these are the exact four stages of the end of the semester too… Weird.
I am always so happy when school starts because I get a fresh chance to work with amazing students who are learning to be elementary teachers. It’s a HUGE responsibility that I do not take lightly. I know that if I didn’t stress out about this, it would probably mean that I didn’t care about my job… and I should probably find a new line of work. And I love my job even if it keeps me up at night or unintentionally stresses out the people around me.
Then by the time the semester is off and running, things are going well and I am in my groove.
And then like always, something derails me.
I mispronounce a word in class. I use an old reference that my students don’t find funny, relevant, or useful to the topic at hand. I forget to update a small part of the syllabus that is actually a big deal… but I make it into one. I don’t grade an assignment within the time that I want and I feel bad that my students have been waiting for their grades. I find that my students didn’t do the reading and it was one that I really wanted to discuss with them… but now all I hear are crickets. I have to have a difficult conversation with someone (or they need to initiate one with me). I don’t end class on time or I start class late.
And then it starts.
I engage in the “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda” (SCW) moments where I worry about what I could have done if I only had planned better or more carefully. Or if I had just been a better teacher.
What’s fascinating about this point in the semester is that I had been talking about how I have adapted Torres’s Rights of the Learner to my practice and how important it is for us:
- To embrace those mistakes or moments when it’s not even a mistake, but we it feels like one
- To embrace those moments when things don’t go well or the way you planned.
- To know that you can always do better next time or in the next class.
And this is the moment that I feel like a hypocrite… because I struggle to accept this same belief about my own practice. By the end of the semester, I am telling students “Hey, about last week, let’s do some real talk…this is what I meant to say about that math problem” and my students give me the look of:
And then I wished that I hadn’t said that in the first place. So then at what point can teachers stop engaging in the SCWs? After 16 years of teaching, how can I just be comfortable with myself I am and my style of teaching? For example, can I just be ok with the fact that I use lots of animal memes and GIFs in my presentations? (Side note: If you’re not familiar, here are the top four that I love:
But I also use a lot of animal puns… like a lot.
I suppose at the end of the day there isn’t much to glean from this blog post other than I just needed a space to to relfect about the end of the semester. This post might also be my looming stress because that Spring 2018 starts in about A MONTH. As I watch my future teachers come through my classroom, I should put into the foreground their amazing work and how proud I am of them and their accomplishments. One day I’ll be comfortable with who I am as a teacher and won’t get wrapped up in the bi-annual case of the Shoulda Coulda Wouldas. That happens eventually, right?