As I was watching my students complete an assignment in the computer lab this morning, I had the opportunity to reflect on how what I had expected the outcome of the assignment to be, and what was actually produced, were completely different. It made me consider whether I am truly the Type A person I think I am.
I know many educators who self-profess to be Type A, anal retentive, controlling, picky and many other variations of those words not appropriate for this post. But are we really? As teachers, being flexible if one of our most valuable assets. We are constantly having to change our plans and even when we plan, we often have a “Plan B”, sometimes even a “Plan C”. I often say to other teachers that we have to “roll with the punches” and we are constantly adjusting our teaching methods, lessons, set up of our classroom, use of resources, and schedules to meet the needs of our students. So can we truly be describing ourselves as Type A, the definition of which is Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock. Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television?
Based on the above definition many teachers I know, including myself, can identify with becoming frustrated by unproductive time, scheduling too many things for one block and trying to multitask, however, I also know that most teachers don’t immediately become upset by these things… in fact, I would say that we often expect it. In the school setting, things come up. Unexpected classroom visitors, someone throwing up, a fire drill or lockdown, or even a temper tantrum can throw our entire day off. And what do we do? We feel annoyed for a few minutes, adjust, recalculate our time frames, and move on- often without our students knowing there was ever an issue.
Maybe that’s the key- our students. Despite how Type A we might be, perhaps the fact that we have 20-30 sweet, innocent (mostly) faces staring at us changes us from the frustrated, inflexible, planning monsters we could be into the calm (if not happy), flexible leader that we know they need us to be. It’s possible that having the innate knowledge that our reactions will affect the remainder of the day for our students leads us to show them how to adjust gracefully. Maybe that’s their gift to us and hopefully one we will keep with us throughout our lives, not just in the classroom. Students teach us that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans” and “If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” as much as we teach those important lessons to them.
So as I continue on my journey I think I will STOP calling myself Type A because while I still need names printed perfectly, flashcards cut out straight, bulletin boards evenly balanced with student work spaced equal distances apart, and a carefully planned day timer, I’m really not completely Type A. Thank you, grade ones of 2014 for showing me that and so much more.
Lindsay is a teacher at Muir Lake School and a part of the PSD70 Learning Coach Program.