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I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale

I started a staff meeting this week with this quote. I’m not usually a “quotes on slideshows” sort of guy, but this one hit me. Unfortunately, this very profound and timely quote sounds mostly like gibberish when spoken out loud. Try it, it’s not pretty.

As long as I’m here in quote land, I’ll share another similar one, maybe one of my favorites ever, from Kurt Vonnegut:

Artists are people who say, ‘I can’t fix my country or my state or my city, or even my marriage. But by golly, I can make this square of canvas, or this eight-and-a-half-by-eleven piece of paper, or this lump of clay, or these twelve bars of music, exactly what they ought to be!

I’m doing my best to do the work in front of me, the work I can do. That work is the classes I’m teaching, the kids on my roster. That’s my lump of clay. I keep telling myself that I can’t fix much right now, as much as my anxiety suggest that I try, but I can do this. I can, for the students I have, make this Google Classroom exactly what it ought to be.

Man, naming tech tools sure does ruin the poetry of things.

This week has been better because I’ve been spending much more of my brain on how to teach reading and writing skills, how to use the class space we have to help students grow their empathy and cultural literacy, to be able to disagree and discuss and simulate (if not replicate) some of the essential mess of good teaching, of great learning. I’m spending more time on that, less on trying to make Padlet or Pear Deck or Flipgrid do the exact thing it’s supposed to do.

I’m still failing a lot more and a lot harder than I’m used to, but I’m failing towards the right things. It’s been better, the work, but I still don’t have any idea what this lump of clay ought to be.

I keep hearing that we need to lower our expectations. We’re just not going to get to do all the things we want this year, there’s no way, if we expect less it will hurt less. I guess.

At some point this year, though, I would love to be happy with what I’m doing, even if I’m not completely enjoying it. I have no doubt that I’m giving every bit of time and energy I can to this, but I have no idea how do this thing well. Maybe my clay won’t end up exactly as it should be.

I’m likely to make something ugly this year, but ugly is better than awful, and ugly is better than nothing if ugly is the best you can do.

Author of ‘It Won’t Be Easy.’ 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. @mrtomrad on everything.

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