Searching for Success in All the Wrong Places
the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
IMHO, I was a very good student.
Why? Because I was obedient. I did what I was told. I followed the criteria. I coloured in the lines. Eventually, I learned that doing a little bit more than what you were told (especially if it’s something I knew my teacher liked) made me a “great” student. So, I did more than the criteria asked. I coloured in the lines. I found five facts instead of just three. I quoted my professor’s favourite author. I had a feel for what everyone else would do and what I could do to stand out. I learned very early on how to be successful at school.
FFWD, I was a very good teacher.
Why? Because I knew how to be successful at school and I taught those skills to my students. I gave them guidance on how to meet and succeed expectations. I taught them how the system worked, the language teachers used, and what teachers took into consideration: showing your work, connecting ideas to previous topics learned, equal participation, work ethic, effort. I loved school because it was a place I knew how to be successful. I knew how to acquire knowledge and show it in the expected (traditional) ways.
But, not everyone’s an “academic.” So, as a teacher, how do I make my classroom a place where everyone loves to be. A place where they feel they can be successful too. My first year teaching I really struggled with this: teach the way I was taught and just get it done, or teach the way I think I should in order to get my students to feel the same way about school that I did. I chose the latter.
“Go figure out the perimeter of the fences outside instead of the ones in your textbooks. Make up your own workouts and teach them the the class for DPA (Daily Physical Activity).”
The old adage, “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile” could not be truer, except that I wanted them to take miles and miles and miles. They ended up going further than I could have thought!
“But there’s only 30 cm in a ruler. That’s going to take too long to do the whole fence.
“Oh! Can we have a metre stick?”
“No, wait. Can we get that long measuring tape we use during track and field? The one that measures how far our discus throw was?”
“Aren’t skipping and jumping jacks too similar? Maybe we should do a different exercise so we work out different parts of our body?”
“Let’s do the cartwheel station on the grass.”
“Why? It’s so far away.”
“Because not everyone can do a cartwheel right so if they lose their balance they can fall on grass instead of the concrete.”
“Oh! And that way they’ll have to run to the grass, so running can be one of our workouts too.”
I was fortunate enough to be teaching during the great educational revolution of our time (*cue grand music*). Enter redesigned curriculum1: competency-based learning, personalized, inquiry-based, the flipped classroom, project-based learning, social-emotional learning—the list goes on! And so, I was obedient once again. I followed the curriculum. I had the freedom to colour outside the lines and to tell my kids it was okay to do so. I felt validated in my choice to instill a "love of learning rather than just the learning. Success, yet again!.
CURRENTLY, I am a very good entrepreneur?
Why the question mark? Because if success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose,” I don’t know what that “aim” or “purpose” is anymore. No one has told me what I need to do! I have an overall goal, sure. I have a problem I’m trying to solve, yes. But I have no criteria. No prescribed guidelines for what to do and how to know if I’m on the right track.
I want to support teachers who are making this transition into modern learning.
I want students to love learning and to know how to do it well—at their own pace, in their own way, so it matters to them and they’re celebrated for who they are.
I want to create something to help with both of those things. Lofty ambitions. At what point do I know I’ve done that?
The better part of my days are dedicated to doing a hundred different things (finishing some tasks, starting others, seeing where tangents lead me, seeking mentorship and advice) and I have no idea if they’re even what I’m “supposed” to be doing. I live with no benchmark of success because I always aligned success to someone else’s prescribed outcome. Someone else’s aim or purpose. I’m more and more realizing how unsustainable that is from a mental well-being perspective.
So now, am I successful when my product is complete? Am I successful when I have one paying customer or one thousand? Am I successful when I’ve sold the company?
On the flip side, have I failed if none of that comes to fruition? If I need to pivot, if I change my mind, if #LifeHappens and I can’t continue, can I look back and say I achieved success? And this is only Work related, imagine how this thinking plays into Life things, where there are no set guidelines at all!
CONSTANTLY, I am very much in a state of panic (only half-joking).
I’ve learned that I need to develop my own measurements of success. I’d love to end this by saying: “I’ve figured it out. OR I’m 100% comfortable with not having any standards. OR I’m fine just living by my own.” I can’t though.
I will proudly say that I am working on it. Constantly. I keep a planner of everything that I’ve finished that day. I make “To Do” lists so I don’t wake up the next day with no game plan. I’m testing out different routines to see what works for me. I’m forcing myself to do things out of my comfort zone just so I can become familiar and maybe friendly with Discomfort, Uncertainty, and Risk (I’ll settle for being “good acquaintances”).
I’m entrepreneuring. I’m edupreneuring. I’m doing. I’m trying. Most days, I feel like I’m just trying. And so, the -ING is my measure of success right now, and the search for some sort of Work / Life Criteria continues. Then again, if I’m search-ING, that must mean I’m being successful, right?
1REDESIGNED CURRICULUM is jargon used in British Columbia to denote the new competency-focused, content-reduced curriculum. It is encompasses 21st century skills, modern learning, literacies (traditional and digital), life-skills, and social-emotional competencies.