This week George Couros tweeted out a line from a blog post by Brad Gustafson. It said, “Starting new things is too easy. Stopping takes discipline. And dialoguing about what to stop might be one of the most powerful conversations your team could have.”
It was one of those lines that stops you in your tracks, because we often think the opposite: that starting new things is difficult, but quitting something is easy.
I don’t like to quit on anything. It’s just not in my nature to admit defeat. I can see it in some kids too, particularly when we play a strategy game like Blokus. When there is absolutely NO POSSIBLE move left to make, some kids won’t admit it. It could be that they don’t want to admit that they’ve lost, but I think for some of them, they just can’t accept that there are no moves left to make.
Shouldn’t there always be another move?
For problem-solvers, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
Because in our everyday life, there often is another solution. Or a compromise. Or some way to keep moving. There has to be, or else every setback or roadblock we encounter would be debilitating to us and we would quit every single time.
This is something that we want for our children: to be resilient human beings. To pick themselves up when they fall down. To keep going when the going gets tough. These are all admirable traits. But there are times that we absolutely should quit and I don’t think we talk about that enough.
Najwa Zebian is one of my favorite writers. Both of these popped up on social media this week:
“Stop making excuses for them not giving you the attention or respect you deserve. If you treat them with kindness but you accept them treating you as if you’re a burden, you’re only hurting yourself for someone who doesn’t deserve it. You need to end this. Whatever it is.”
“The best way to deal with a toxic situation is to walk away. No, run. As fast as you can. Then heal all the wounds. Then learn what a healthy situation looks like. And don’t accept less than that.”
I thought of her words a few different times this week: the domestic murder-suicide in Kindersley, more hockey players coming forward with abusive situations, and this tweet from a teacher that I follow @gromit1996.
“This is one of the most difficult groups I have ever worked with. I feel completely useless as their teacher. I’m sure they feel the same about me. I am sorry, and sad. Nothing I do seems to work.”
There were supportive comments, and a lot of “I’ve been there…not easy…take care of yourself.”
I agree. We’ve all been there.
And while the comments this garnered were positive, many times over the years when I’ve admitted that I was struggling with a student or group, I received less than constructive advice from people. A personal favorite: “Oh, they’re not like that with me...”
The more experienced I got, the more I realized that you will never be all things to all people. (And that the people claiming they had no problems, absolutely did. Just not always in the same way as me.)
That is a given when working with kids. Sometimes no matter what you do, it’s a struggle. In those times, it’s easy to throw a pity-party and believe that it is just you. Trust me, it’s not.
What’s serendipitous is that as I’m writing this blog (and checking my social media lol, I’m a multi-procrastinator) is that one of the most respected educators on Twitter @pernilleripp just posted this: “Working through heavy emotions tonight as I look forward to Monday, wondering out loud and would love your thoughts; is it ever possible enough to build thick enough skin to not care what students say about you?”
I am very good at what I do. I know and believe that. So when I am struggling with a class or a student, I don’t take it personally. Just like with the Blokus game, I try to problem solve my way through it: reach out for trusted advice, try different strategies, and always ALWAYS try to build relationship. I don’t usually respond to tweets, but tonight I did: “It hurts because we care. One thing that has really helped me is Dr. Jody Carrington’s ‘mad is just sad’s bodyguard.’ The words may be about me, but it generally really isn’t at its core.”
I truly believe that.
Many times that works.
But I am learning that there are also times that I need to know when to quit.
If I take Hattie’s ‘know thy impact’ to heart, and keep what is best for students in the forefront, I need to assess my own effectiveness. Where will my presence and approaches to learning make the most difference? Can I stop, reflect, and (putting ego aside) know that someone else may be a better fit?
As the Couros tweet says, starting something is easy. Stopping something takes discipline.
Yep, it sure does.
Oh, one more thing to take with you from Najwa Zebian; in the last week craziness that inevitably happens before holidays, “You were given the gift of a soft heart. Do not lose it.”
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.