Monday, August 1, 2016

#MTBOSBlaugust Day 1: The Blame Game

I am lucky enough to be the aunt of the sweetest toddler in the whole world and one of the biggest blessings of our big summer move has been living close to her for the first time. I spent my Saturday galavanting around town with her (and her parents) and I was entertaining her while my sister-in-law browsed some clothes. We went from shirt to shirt in the store, identifying every color along the way, and she soon spotted a baby across the store. She walked near the carrier and said "Baby!" and waved at her and then walked away. It was adorable...everyone nearby swooned.  A few minutes later, we made our way back towards the baby and before I could swoop down and pick her up, she had grabbed a toy attached to the baby's carrier. The baby's mom didn't take this well and I apologized and removed the now screaming toddler from the situation. 

Not a huge deal, right? The mom reacted strongly to a curious toddler when the baby was in no danger and the toddler was promptly corrected and removed. But after saying goodbye to my brother and sister-in-law, giving my niece a million kisses, and watching them drive away, I spent about 30 minutes walking around the mall trying to calm myself from a panic that had been stirred up. 

That same panic came back to me later that evening when my (calm, gentle, "everyone is my best friend") dog tried to jump on someone on a walk. I've walked this pup every day for 3 years and this has never happened. Again, I apologized to the man and he was very understanding. I went home and stress ate about a week's worth of Goldfish crackers and drowned my sorrows in Real Housewives. The dog and the man were both no worse for the wear. 

So why the panic? For me, it was disappointment in myself. In both situations, I was charged with overseeing someone who didn't always have the knowledge to succeed.  They each behaved inappropriately and I placed no blame on either of them. Instead, I was beating myself up for not anticipating where they might not meet expectations and setting them up for success. If I'd only shortened her leash more or walked a little further off the sidewalk, she wouldn't have had the opportunity to jump on him. And if I'd just anticipated that a mom would be super-protective of her baby and a toddler might grab the nearest toy she saw, I wouldn't have been carrying a screaming toddler out of a store or getting death stares from a woman I'd never met.  It was on me. I was the facilitator for people who were trusting me in this situation. I placed the blame on myself.

Summer is always a time of reflection and re-focusing for me both personally and professionally. The longer I teach, the more I am learning to embrace the "messiness" of it all and it's reshaping the way I approach my pedagogy and my kiddos.  In certain circles of teachers (especially ones that are burned out and tired of change), you start hearing blame getting put on a lot of things. Kids these days, parents, technology, economic circumstances, apathy, etc. I understand where it comes from- so many expectations are placed upon teachers today and conveying content through all the "noise" can be an overwhelming challenge. But that's literally my job- to cut through the noise and give those kids the best opportunity to succeed. 

As I'd been thinking of some of my goals for the upcoming school year, having time to reflect on my Saturday stress-fest provided me with some clarity. On Saturday, the only thing I could control was my own choices to anticipate where someone who depended on me might falter and try to make the best choices to facilitate their success. My classroom is no different. As a more experienced teacher, I have the time and the knowledge to anticipate these struggles more than I ever have before. 

So that's my big idea. More posts coming this #MTBoSBlaugust on how. 


  1. Good perspective- I always have to remind myself to focus on what I can control. I think with our students we are also working to help them learn how do do the same with their learning!

  2. Good perspective- I always have to remind myself to focus on what I can control. I think with our students we are also working to help them learn how do do the same with their learning!

  3. Wow - this was a powerful post. I agree with Nicole that we need to focus on what is within our control. Thank you for joining Blaugust!