Why All Teachers Are Losers
How the weight of my losing became the very guts of my winning.
I think we all know that awkward moment when you’re leaving a party saying some confusing “goodbye’s” to people you didn’t even get to say a proper “Hello” to. You saw them from across the room, meant to catch up with them, but just didn’t find the opportunity. And even though you had a blast, you still felt kind of bad about not getting check in on how Jen was doing in her new role, or how Lauren’s trip to Hawaii went.
A classroom is much like a party: less glitz and glam, but a room full of people each with their own story to tell. Imagine that Jen is actually a 10-year-old working on her space exploration project. And Lauren is trying to understand how hydroelectricity works. Now, imagine you have 28 other kids in your room, each working on their own set of skills, at their own pace, and it’s your job to witness, document, and support the development of all these individuals. And now you are thinking… no. That’s not a thing. But it is. I’m expected to be the guide-on-the-side at everyone’s side. And so, I lose.
There is a lot of talk about why this century’s intended curriculum is not the implemented curriculum. This criticism lands heavily on the shoulders of teachers, myself included. Teachers need to be kept in the loop by all of their students to successfully offer personalized learning in their classrooms while still meeting the requirements of the governing education system. I never valued the right answers. I valued the stimulating questions. I imagined my classroom as an arena for students to understand their passions and move with purpose, and they did just that. Year after year, I put intrinsic motivation, collaboration, and curiosity at the forefront of my teaching goals knowing that I would fall short in the documentation of my formative assessment. I designed my parent-teacher interviews and report cards around a few anecdotal notes, forced digital portfolio entries, and student conferences; I had disjointed proof of what I wanted to assess. It wasn’t for lack of work ethic or determination — it was merely for lack of time. Thirty students to share meaningful interactions with, thirty different processes of learning to document, multiplied by several different projects. Unless I cloned myself from 9 am to 3 pm, Monday to Friday, I wasn’t going to be successful. I was going to lose.
I lost precious time with family and friends trying to keep up with an inordinate amount of formative assessments. I lost the ability to be present in the classroom because I was so caught up in trying to prove their daily growth through documentation and “check-in” strategies. I lost the joy of being a teacher because I felt like I no matter what I did, I still couldn’t address every student’s needs. Eventually, I lost my job. Not because I got fired, but because I fired myself. I left teaching feeling embarrassed, defeated and ashamed. That overly ambitious teacher who worked herself to “burn-out” finally burnt out.
The very definition of “to win” means: “to obtain by work, to earn.”
And with that, the weight of losing became the very guts of my winning.
There are many teachers out there like myself who see the value of putting their students needs first, and who, like me, are doing whatever it takes to split themselves into 30 on the daily to nurture these needs.
I wasn’t a loser. I was a modern teacher in an antiquated system.
So, I left teaching to build an edtech platform to honour my fellow loser teachers and to help these caring, innovative, and dynamo losers to lose a whole lot less.