Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

Control

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Day two of teaching, and already I’m tense and frustrated.  Why, you ask?  Because things have gone badly awry with my instructions from my district-level superiors, and my district-level superiors are distant and inaccessible.  Is it that they don’t understand what has gone awry?  Or is it that they aren’t reading my email closely enough even to understand that a problem exists?

I could tell you all about it, but this is a blog about reading, not a blog about teaching.  And anyway, enough people have been fired for blogging about the ways in which their jobs suck.  And it just isn’t classy to air laundry in public, is it?  Let’s just leave it at, “People who are supposed to do things, aren’t doing them the way I need them to be done, and that causes me stress.”

Last year, I spent some time reading Epictetus.  Just about the first thing that Epictetus says in the Enchiridion is that we have have things that are within our control, and things that are not within our control.  And the second list is way longer than the first, and the secret of living a good life is to know the difference, and to concentrate on the things we do control, and not on the things we don’t.

Stress is all about control, isn’t it?  My students’ behavior used to cause me a lot more stress than it does now.  Once I assembled a working toolbox of effective ways to respond to bad behavior, and implemented it, my stress levels went way down, even though my students are still sometimes pretty far out of line.  When I have more control, I’m not as stressed.  And I don’t even mean control over my students, but control over what I do to respond to them.

The reason I’m stressed today is because I lack control over my distant, shadowy superiors.  Epictetus would say that I should accept that I do not, and never will, control whether or not they do the things I think they ought to be doing.  What I do control is my own teaching, in my own classroom.  I can teach what I know is important for my students to know, confident in my own knowledge and experience, even without guidance from Above.  Epictetus managed to be one of the world’s great teachers with no school board, district-level managers, or even a course of study, curriculum, or pacing guide.

So the way to be more relaxed is to remind myself that others’ failings reflect badly on them, not on me.  As long as I am doing the best work I can with the resources I have available to me, I have reason to feel good about my life and about my work.

Epictetus is right.  It’s all about control: knowing what I control (my own thoughts and actions) and what I don’t control (everything else).

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Written by Contented Reader

August 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Opinions

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