*This may seem like the almost incoherent ramblings of a stressed out writer and teacher. It has taken me some time to write this, so I’m just trying to get it all out. Apologies if any parts of this don’t really make sense.
I’ve really been struggling lately to write…anything, really…lately. These sentences are the first I’ve put down in a few weeks. There’s a lot running through my mind, but nothing seems to be right. I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust my beliefs about education. I don’t trust my contributions. I’m so afraid of misleading or being incorrect in my beliefs that it has paralyzed my ability to write. I’ve become mostly silent on Twitter, too, for many of the same reasons. I’m sure I’m not the only teacher/writer to ever experience this. You hear about writer’s block all the time. I’m not sure this is the same thing, but maybe it is. I have plenty to say, but I am so afraid of confusing and/or misdirecting others that I would, for the most part, prefer to just remain silent.
Even writing this is difficult…although I’m not dispensing my usual take on teaching or providing some strategy. Again, nothing seems quite right. But, I’m going to force myself to work through this. I’m going to write this post. I would like the chance to unpack these feelings a bit; to better understand this myself, but maybe also assist others who have felt the same or may experience this in the future. It certainly isn’t a good feeling…it’s debilitating and makes me doubt myself as an educator and writer. I just feel stuck.
So, here’s where I think this is all coming from:
I really like when there is a right answer…an undeniable right answer. This is probably why I enjoyed math in school. There is (usually) one correct answer. Find that answer and you’ve solved the problem. I love that. Take that sentiment and apply it to myself as a teacher…I always want to do the right thing for my students. I want to teach in a manner that best benefits them. But, in education, and especially with education research, rarely is there a 100% correct answer. With few deviations, there are always exceptions to the ‘rules’. That doesn’t sit well with me. I want there to be a correct way to instruct my students. I want to know the best methods and I want those methods to work for all of my students all of the time. I completely understand this is an impossibility, and this only fuels my doubting anything I do in the classroom or anything I write about classroom instruction. I’m terrified of misleading others with my writing. I don’t take the usual stance on education that many do in the U. S. and this means I am often at odds with a number of the more popular American writers. I often use my take to add balance to the story of education. This is ok, as I don’t mind opposing the herd, but it causes me to constantly doubt myself and my writing. If nothing works all the time, how can I write with such certainty? The struggle is real.
I think this may also touch a bit on the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The more I learn about education and the application of cognitive psychology principles in the classroom, the more I’m finding it to be excruciatingly complicated. Although, I don’t for one second consider myself to be someone with a high level of knowledge in the field as the image above suggests, I constantly find it harder to write about education because of the constant caveats. For every study I’ve read showing the positive effects of retrieval practice in the classroom, there are other studies indicating the negative impact of testing with respect to students’ stress and anxiety levels. I understand that all studies have different variables and to generalize a studies’ findings can be somewhat irresponsible…so what should I, and other teachers, believe? What do we trust? What is best for my students? At what time? In what scenarios? No one ever said teaching would be easy…but this is getting ridiculous for a guy who wants a clear-cut answer. I am quite obviously frustrated, confused, and exasperated. And someone who feels this way shouldn’t really be writing about instructional practice, right? The struggle is real.
So, where do I go from here? How do I get out of this writing funk? How do I get back to trusting myself? I’m not too sure, to be honest. I’m really hoping writing this and getting these feelings off my chest helps out. If this doesn’t work, I’m not too sure what’s next…the struggle is real.
If you’ve stayed with this rant for its entirety…thank you. I’m very sorry if, at any point, the content went a bit off the rails. I really just needed to force myself to get this out. Please feel free to offer guidance or assistance if you’ve ever been stuck in a similar mindset. What helped you get past this? I’m all ears.