439. The Enormity of the Task

Most teachers try hard to notice the individuals in their classes – to pay attention to individual needs and make sure each child feels important. That can be hard to do, especially if some children’s needs cry out for more attention than others, or if the teacher has needs that get in the way. And of course, there’s curriculum teachers often feel they have to “cover.” It can be overwhelming. But we do try to pay attention to individuals.
I have observed teachers who have been great at it. I’ve seen people directing choirs or instrumental groups in ways that make every member feel valued and heard. Sometimes, while conducting a reading, math, or other kind of lesson, I’ve mentally compared myself to such musical conductors, trying to make sure every pleasant sound is appreciated, every producer of sour notes or faulty rhythm is helped. And sometimes, when a lesson has gone particularly well, I’ve felt as if I’ve conducted a beautiful symphony.
As a parent, it can be hard to believe that any teacher realizes just how special your child is. After all, your child’s teacher is also the teacher of several other children. You may be the parent of more than one child, but you probably don’t have twenty of them, and the children you have are rarely the same age as each other. If you time things well, there are many times you spend with just one of your children. That’s important time. How can a teacher give your child that kind of time?
At times, I’ve been overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. I’ve felt that every child in my class deserved every bit of attention I could give, and more. I was trying to do what was impossible, and I was angry at myself for not being able to do it. Impossibility, though real, sometimes felt like an alibi. I think every teacher feels that way sometimes. So do parents.
On the one hand, I think we ought to learn from teachers who seem to have found ways to juggle lots of tasks without dropping any. Some even seem to be able to do it without knocking themselves out. Children who have such teachers are very lucky. If teachers have found ways that work for them, we owe it to ourselves and to children to do our best to learn those ways.
On the other hand, we also owe it to ourselves to be gentle with ourselves; nobody actually meets all children’s needs, and that’s all right. And the teacher you admire, emulate, and maybe even envy may be admiring, emulating, and envying you. We often tend to notice what we’re not doing, or doing wrong, and miss what we’re doing well.

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