Anyone who is trying to make change in education can get frustrated pretty easily.
OK, maybe not everyone that is trying to make a change. Maybe it’s just me.
However, I hear stories of teachers and administrators who are struggling to help students and dealing with the overwhelming feeling of defeat when they don’t see the growth they wanted or the same students make the same mistakes time and time again.
And I’m not just talking about test scores.
Every day, we work with students that, regardless of the efforts we put forth to aid them, continue to walk down a path that will likely prevent them from fulfilling their potential.
Not just the students who are making choices that could put them at risk of living part of their lives in the confines of one of our illustrious prisons but all those students that aren’t living up to the potential that we see in them.
Educators struggle daily wanting to see some evidence of the work we do. More often than not, we don’t see it. Likely for many years, if ever at all.
I’ve been reading Ryan Holiday’s excellent Ego is the Enemy and I’ve had to take a great deal of time reflecting on what I’ve been doing in education and why I’ve really been doing it.
Near the end of the book, a simple sentence inspired this post and will change how I do everything I do.
“Doing the work is enough.”
Read that again and let it sink in.
One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is, “We’re here to make a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why even be here?“
Think about this: how big is the universe? Even if you made the biggest dent in the history of everything, it’s still just a dent.
Not everyone notices a dent. You’ve probably gotten dents in your car and never known where they came from.
The same is true for the dents you make in your own part of the universe. They may go unnoticed for years.
Those students you’ve supported and done your best to help them see the potential that lies inside them may not see it themselves until they are much, much older.
Some may never see it.
The other teachers that you work with who you try desperately to help them adopt a new strategy or share something you’ve done that worked great with students may never be on the same page as you.
Trust me, I know how frustrating that can be.
OR, they end up changing their practice after someone else talks with them and, somehow, convinces them to make a change.
This is a moment when we all need to remind ourselves that ego is the enemy and it doesn’t matter who convinced them to make a change, only that they made it.
But what if they change never comes? What if you struggle over your entire career and you see little, if any, progress to making our schools a better place for our students?
In this moment, remember this small sentence that will give you reassurance:
Doing the work is enough.
Of course, as I’m writing this post, I realize that these words are primarily written for myself. But, if someone out there finds inspiration, fantastic.
Doing the work is enough.