Aaron Hogan shatters myths about teaching. Empower yourself as a teacher with the knowledge you do not have to be perfect. Learn how to build collegiality and support other teachers.
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Shattering Perfect Teacher Myths
Vicki: Today we're talking to Aaron Hogan @aaron_hogan about shattering the “Perfect Teacher Myth.” He has a book of the same name that we’ll be sharing in the show notes.
So Aaron, you know, as a teacher… You know, sometimes I feel like I have to apologize. People will walk in my room, and everybody's going crazy. We’re learning! But it doesn't look like what we think we're supposed to look like. Why are we as teachers so uptight? Why do we feel like we have to be perfect?
Aaron: Right. So I think that first — you're not alone. I’ve run across several people who’ve had that feeling. I think teaching is is one of those professions that is unique in a lot of ways. One of those unique qualities about teaching is that you’re the only adult in that room, making the magic happen while you're in there. So it's hard to know what's going on on the other side of those walls. I worked in a building with brick walls, and those brick walls are pretty thick.
It's hard to know what's going on on the other side and so when something happens that maybe has been explained to you as kind of a quick fix, “Hey, just do these things, and the kids will do this in response.” When it doesn't work, then you feel like, “I must be the variable in the room, right? It must be me that’s leading to this not going the way that I would hope.”
And I think that's not true but I think that almost every educator has had that feeling, that, ”You know, some things aren’t going right. It must be that I’m the problem in this situation.”
And wouldn’t you agree — I mean I’ve been teaching six years — and every year has its own unique problems.
Aaron: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Vicki: I mean, we don’t arrive at perfection, do we?
Aaron: No. No. Never. I think it’s one of the things that keeps it really fun — that there’s always something new there for in the classroom.
Even though those things worked great last year, you get to figure out, “OK. It’s going to work great for these kids this year, but maybe not for for this group.”
And then you've got that new challenge of, “How am I going to reach that next group? What am I going to do to take care of them and to meet their needs? How is that going to build that arsenal of ways to really reach kids the way that we want our own kids to be reached in their classrooms?”
Vicki: So, how do we shatter the “perfect teacher myth”?
Tip to Shatter the Teacher Myth #1: Know the Myths
Aaron: OK, so the first thing, I think we’ve got to know what the myths are before we get out there to shatter them. And I think even before that, know that there are these myths that are taking over.
When these myths start to creep in, they make teachers feel like it’s time to lose all their self confidence. It makes teachers feel like a failure, when really it's a measurement that no one could actually stand up to.
Myth: Do this and then kids behave
It’s things like, you know, that feeling of, “If I do these sorts of things, then all the kids will behave.”
Myth: Buckle Down, I can do it alone
Or, “if I just just buckle down, then I can do all these things on my own.” Then that’s some level of perfection.
But those things aren’t true.
The reality is that when we go in and we realize that maybe those behavior expectations need to be taught. And they're going to be forgotten, just like other things — the academic content that people might forget.
We realize that, and then we have a different sort of standard to live up to. It’s just that we need to be responsible and teach those expectations.
It’s the same thing with that isolation. When we realize, “I can’t do all of these things on my own. I’m so much better when I lean on the other people who need me just as much as I need them.”
When we work in collaboration with other people, we can reject that isolation that makes us feel like we are the only one who's going through these sorts of circumstances.
Vicki: We are not alone. I think it's important to learn that.
Aaron: Ah, but it can feel that way.
Vicki: Goodness knows it can. Because you know that when you close the door, it’s you and them, you know?
Vicki: So what other myths — you’ve talked about two or three now — what other myths do you think can paralyze us as teachers or even make us want to quit?
Aaron: Sure. I think there’s a couple that I want to hit on here.
Myth: You have to be perfect.
One is this idea of value in vulnerability. That, for me for a long time, and even now I have to fight against valuing that that idea of looking like it I have it all together.
And really, when I can get past that, when I get to that point where I can say, “You know what? I don't have it all together. I’ve worked on some things. I know some things, but I have a lot to learn. What can I learn?”
It opens you up to the space where you can learn from someone else. And they feel like they can learn from you — because you're not the person who just has it all together. It’s a “We're in this together learning from one another.”
Let’s be kind to beginning teachers
Vicki: I know somebody who is coming in from the business world who is teaching. And you know, some people can be very impatient with beginners. It's I don't know why we expect people who are beginning teachers to have it all together and have all their classroom management. But I kind of think that sometimes those of us who are a little more veteran might not be fair to beginners.
Myth: We have to learn how to teach on our own – we don’t learn from other teachers
Aaron: I think so. Some of that, it may be a sense of, “f I had to work through it on my own, then other people might need to also.” But I think that's flawed thinking.
If we are people who’ve had to work through those things on our own, we need to pay it forward to those teachers who are working through through now. Say, “Hey, when I was a first year teacher, these are all the ways that I blew it. Or I felt like I blew it, at least, in front of my students.”
Realize that others struggle too
Any time we can open up ourselves to that powerful response of “Me, too,” where somebody else can realize that, “Hey, this other person from down the hall, during the passing period, it looked like she has it all together. But really, she’s been through the same sorts of struggles I have.”
We want that community of learners for our kids. That brings us together. We can extend empathy to others. That brings us together as a staff in a way that’s just really powerful.
That’s when we can see some transformation, moving forward, and people believing the right things about themselves.
Vicki: So What's another myth?
Myth: You have to be monumental to change lives
Aaron: One of the other myths is that it takes a huge, monumental-like, life-changing act to be one of those memorable teachers for kids. What I really believe is that it’s those everyday things that make a kid remember teacher for a lifetime.
All it takes is being that person who's consistently there, giving somebody a high five, giving somebody a fist bump, even just at that smile every day in the hallway. Those are the things that end up making a really big impact for a long time. We can still have those big impressive things that people will remember, “Oh, that one day…”
But students, I think, are much more likely to remember the impact that you made over 180 days, rather than over one or two really impactful days.
Vicki: Well, I'm thinking back on Tuesday. We showed this movie. We kind of have them Chapel time at my school on Tuesdays, and I had a student who kind of sits behind the screen.
I said, “don’t you need to need to come in front of the screen?
And he said, “No, I watch your laptop.”
Well, I took the laptop and just pointed it at him and just kind of nodded.
He nodded back at me.
But the look on his face was, “You didn't get on to me for sitting behind the screen. You noticed that this is kind of where I want to sit because I kind of want to be by myself and be over here. and you just turned your laptop so I can see it better. And that was thoughtful.”
Because you're right. Sometimes, it's the little bitty, ordinary things and noticing somebody that makes all the difference.
Aaron: Right. I had a student once — I came back from being out. I was just out doing some district training, and I came back to school the next day.
She said, “Mr. Hogan, I was having a bad day yesterday, and you weren't here, and you always notice, and it made me sad that you weren't here.” a
And I still don’t know what I did on the front end, but that’s the outcome that we want. I like it that I don't even know what I did it's just, “Be there in those everyday moments to really engage with kids. That leaves a lasting impact.”
Vicki: If you have to pick one big myth that you haven't mentioned yet that you think could be life-changing if we busted, what would it be?
Myth: That someone can tell us what to do to make us a great teacher
Aaron: This idea that we can imagine better for our kids. I think the myth, sometimes, is that the best teachers excel at by meeting those existing expectations. “Just tell me what I need to do and I'll do it well. I'll do better than everybody else, and that will make me successful.”
But I love this idea that JK Rowling shared. She says, “We don't need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
And that idea of looking past what we’ve always done, looking past what the status quo has been, looking past what maybe even expected of us… and trying to figure out how we can do the best for our kids — not in like an “I'm going to work my myself for 80 hours a week and exhaust myself,” way, but, “Just with what I have to give, how can I do the absolute best for those that I serve?”
That's really important to me that we're not thinking through change for change sake, but just thinking about what is the best experience that we can provide for students if you’re a classroom teacher, or for your staff if you're that campus leader. What's what can we do to imagine better for those who we serve.
Vicki: Teachers, as we finish up — I'll we will link to Aaron's book in the show notes — but I just wanted to give you a, “Me, too.”
You know, I have bad days. “Me, too.”
You know we all struggle.”Me, too.”
We all sometimes feel like, “Why are we doing this, and are we even important?” That’s a ”Me, too.”
These are things that we feel as teachers. We struggle. We have hard days. We mess up. But I will tell you this — there are those moments where you realize that we're doing something that is really, I would say, one of the most special impactful professions on the entire planet and I would say, ”Me, too.”
Vicki: I'm making a difference too, just like you, Aaron.
Aaron: There you go. That's what it's all about, finding those ways to connect with kids and do what’s best for them.
Bio as submitted
Aaron is a husband, dad, educator, blogger, speaker, and author. His recently published book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator, highlights a few myths that many teachers don't even realize are there and replaces each myth with a truth that will help teachers get out of survival mode at school.
Blog: Aaron Hogan
|Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.|
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I’m in my school’s English Ed program right now and this post made me feel so much better. I’m always worried about being the “perfect” teacher and not making any mistakes, but no one is perfect and that includes teachers!
Another point that I loved was that every year we have to think of new ways to reach our students. While that can be really stressful, I also think it’s part of why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. Every year you get a new group of students that you can learn from and continue to develop your teaching strategies.
Thanks for the confidence!
AWesome Alexis! You can do it! We all make mistakes. Just keep doing your best!
Great discussion. As an educator I want to be the best I can be. Sometimes my own expectations weigh me down. I need to remember that I don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference. The myths can definitely be an obstacle.