Teachers: You Don’t Have to Be Great Every Day

“The most important thing a young ball player can learn is that he can’t be good every day”

– a baseball scout to Lou Gehrig

If you’re familiar with the great Lou Gehrig’s story, you probably also know that he held the record for over fifty years for consecutive baseball games. 2,130 games, to be exact. An incredible accomplishment, especially when you know that he suffered many broken bones (pretty much every bone in both hands), injuries, and sickness over his career.

But he never stopped. He was, most importantly, consistent. Early on in his career, he took to heart the words of that wise scout and decided that he didn’t have to be the greatest player every day. He just had to show up and do the work, even if he failed in the trying.

There’s a lesson there for educators…

How often do we think as educators that we must be perfect every day? How many frustrations come from lessons that didn’t work right, technology that didn’t work at all, or the one student who never shows up finally showing up on the day you wished he hadn’t?

Don’t lie. You know exactly which kid I’m talking about.

Of course, we want to do our best. We’ve been given a sacred trust to educate the next generation. We work hard and take our time to ensure our students have great learning experiences. We look for new ways to engage our students, new ways to get their brains thinking and making new connections.

We search for resources that will help the struggling student overcome an obstacle, and at the same time, we’re challenging the student who seems to excel at every task to do something new and creative.

We diligently work to expand opportunities for students who don’t have what they need to be successful. We meet with parents and community members to support programs that reach at-risk students, talk with local businesses, and get their support for our after-school activities and teams.

We spend sleepless nights searching for the answers to prepare our students for a world that we can’t predict. We drive ourselves mad, stay tired, and put up with less and less support from our government officials and budgets that just don’t seem to get the job done.

And we somehow forget that we’re not going to be the best every day. We want to be. We want to scream when we aren’t. We’d rather die than fail our students or for something to go wrong that ruins our plans.

However, our students need to see that we’re not perfect, and that’s perfectly fine. They need to know that we make mistakes, but we learn from them when we do. They need to understand that sometimes things happen beyond our control, but we always try our best anyway.

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”

– Jean-Luc Picard

We’re not superhuman. We’re not perfect. We will fail. We will fall. But so has everyone else who has ever set foot on this planet of ours. We won’t be good every day. But we don’t have to be, because our students won’t be good every day.

Sometimes, we just have to remind ourselves that it’s okay if we’re not good every day. Because our students need us to be human. They need to know that even the best of us make mistakes and that even the most prepared can have a bad day.

Because what they really need to learn is that it’s not about being good every day. It’s about being good enough and trying again tomorrow.

Our students need us to be real so they can be too.

We have good days and bad days. What’s important is that we learn from our mistakes, strive to be better tomorrow than we were today, and never give up on our students.

And when they see us struggle and move through problems, they see that they can do the same. And that lesson is more important than just about any other we could give them.

“The most important thing a young ball player can learn is that he can’t be good every day.” The same is true for educators. We must continue to learn and grow to be the best we can be for our students. They deserve nothing less.

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