Back in the saddle

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Y’all. I am in the classroom again.

Teaching. It’s my jam. It’s my song. It’s what feels right.

I’ve read in several places over the past couple years that one significant difference between men and women in the workplace is in how they handle insecurity. According to the received wisdom / poll data / research bits, men are often full of bravado and confidence no matter how unlikely, while women hold back until they feel “ready enough.”  So, the reasoning goes, that’s why men ask for more raises and get them, get promoted, get attention, and leave their mark on the world.

The Confidence Gap (The Atlantic)

I can’t crawl inside anyone else’s head easily, but inside mine, I must admit this research rings true.  And very little brings out the megaphone of self-doubt like stepping into a classroom in front of several pairs of watching eyes.

It’s possible to bluff one’s way through a lesson (I’ve done it, under duress and overwork or poor planning), but generally I think students see through ill-prepared teaching.

It’s also intimidating to consider just how talented and intelligent humans are in general. We get all caught up with analyzing test scores and IQ data and grades and crap like that, but really — humans are pretty incredible even if they aren’t burning up the grading curve. So teaching requires a lot of strategy and planning, enough to move a conversation forward or help students develop further.

There are days when I wish I could turn off the nay-sayer in my brain. I already know that I’m not the brightest or the smartest or the best prepared or most creative. If “being the best” is truly some kind of award, I’m never going to win it. Some days I just feel lazy.  After all, I have no PhD; I’m not running a company that I founded; I’m not on a fast track to high-level management; I haven’t written a book; I hardly even keep up with tweeting more than 1 day in a row.

All that said, there’s an invigorating satisfaction to the challenge. I’m facing a classroom tomorrow morning where I need to lead a discussion on a chapter I assigned, prep students with a definition of argumentation, and explain an assignment well.  Will I do as well as I possibly could? No. I worked 8 hours today doing something completely different. There’s not enough time in the day or space in my brain to make this perfect.

So, like my students, I aim for “good enough.” Not in the lazy sense, where just scraping by is all that’s called for, but in the wisdom that comes from orbiting this globe more than a few times.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

Like so many human endeavors, the foundation to success in teaching is getting in there and doing it.

Nice to have the opportunity again.

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