When frustration is a good thing

I keep waiting for that day when I look at my curriculum and am happy with what I see. You know, that point where it’s really good and perhaps only needs a few minor changes each year.  After years of constant tweaking, improving, and overhaul it seems like that day should be right around the corner.

Instead, the more I learn, the more I tweak, the more I realize how imperfect my curriculum really is. To be sure, it has improved dramatically from my first year teaching, and I’d even say it’s gotten better every time I teach. Yet I’m still discontent. I’m still frustrated that the level of student engagement and rigor I’d like to have doesn’t match the engagement and rigor that actually exists.

The last two weeks my frustration level has been pretty high. We’re not doing enough work in groups. We’re not doing enough meaningful projects. We’re doing too much question answering. I’m talking in front of the class too often and not spending enough time talking with students. I critically tear apart my teaching technique and the way I present the content.

I’m confident that the curriculum I’m using and the way I’m presenting it is at least “good.” My frustration comes from knowing that it’s not the best. It’s the difference between completing a marathon and winning a marathon. Completing a marathon can be pretty a pretty major accomplishment for a recreational runner like myself. However, if you’re an elite runner with the talent and training to be able to win a marathon simply finishing isn’t a major achievement.

While I don’t mind my status as a recreational runner I’m not happy being a “recreational teacher.” I have access to the knowledge and skills required to be an “elite teacher.” As such I expect myself to constantly strive for “elite” status.  I analyze my teaching and curriculum like that elite runner watching a video of herself in slow motion; trying to find inefficiencies in her stride that can be eliminated.

My frustration (I’ve only recently come to realize) is simply a manifestation of my desire to improve.

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