At a workshop a few weeks ago, the presenters opened with a quote that I keep forgetting to bring home, but went something to the effect of: “The only people who feel successful are those who are willing to put up with mediocrity.” I’m pretty sure their point was that none of us was supposed to feel successful because we’re saving children for God’s sake! We must push onward and upward and do it better next time! With lots of positive statements about how the only thing standing between now and the world where all children are happy Harvard graduates is how hard we work! The teachers, not the kids.
What bothered me about the quote, though, was not the words themselves, or even the message–because, come on, why else would I go into teaching unless I actually thought, deep down that my effort alone could actually save children. No, what bothered me was my immediate reaction. I read the quote and the first though that showed up, happily sitting on the front stoop waiting to come on in, was “Yes! Mediocrity = feelings of success! Sign me up for some of that!”
Now that I think about it, the ONLY thing I took away from that hour-long presentation was that I could feel successful in what I do if I lower my personal expectation. Clearly, my expectations for myself are currently way too high if I need to work 10 hour days (and feel like I should work 12) in order to do all the things I envision. And it’s become obvious that they’re way too high for the people around me because I keep expecting kids to turn in all their work and administrators to actually show up at the lunch time meetings they planned. Details.
The trouble is, I have no idea how to go about working toward mediocrity. Is that something someone can even work toward? Do I have to study? Should I make a list of all the things I could let slide, or perhaps rank order them and then find a reasonable cut off? Is it possible to work too hard at trying to be mediocre? Is that still mediocrity?
It has been pointed out to me that I could also try just walking out the door at 4:30 in the afternoon and then come back again the next day, but I don’t think that will work because who will grade all the papers and plan fabulous lessons with lots of bad white board drawings and arm waiving? And if no one grades the papers, won’t the kids all suffer dire consequences? Or at least get a paper cut?
I’m still having trouble with this theory, but I’m working on it. And once I get it all figured out, I’ll let you know in thorough detail. It’ll be perfect. 🙂