What is our obligation to our students, to our schools, our state and federal governments during a time of such urgent and often irrational demands on our personal and professional time? We could work all day and all night and never be done, never get it just right. I have, for years, been greatly consoled by this one particular lesson from Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, especially the wisdom and permission given to me by the last two lines:
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
I worked long and long and then still harder to be the best teacher that I can be for them today. I can always be better but I could not have done more. Instead of punishing myself by declaring I am a failure, I look to the notion, so quietly spelled out here, that I can only "do my work, then step back." Then go home and try again to be the best I can be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow again.