That feeling of being overwhelmed is a recurring theme with my fellow bloggers, and I am compelled to throw my hat in the ring.
Here’s the deal: No matter what I do, I wish I could do more.
I work with my students, both individuals and small groups, all day long in varying push-in and pull-out sessions of 30 to 80 minutes. I hope I’m helping them, yet I always have that feeling in the pit of my stomach when the words “OK! I’ll see you tomorrow!” escape my lips. It’s that feeling that tells me, Gosh, I wish I had more time with them.
Just imagine if they had that extra half-hour, hour, half-day, whatever. Come to think of it, most of the general ed kids would benefit from some one-on-one attention, too. Gee, I also wish they were eating right and exercising. Hmm, if only they lived in a safer and more supportive home environment. I mean, maybe if so-and-so had his own bed and such-and-such wasn’t always babysitting her younger siblings, they’d be doing better in school.
I also wish the school could afford more teachers, better athletic and arts facilities, a more fuel-efficient bus, and a language program that could serve the community’s parents. Hmm, for that matter, I wish the community offered more resources.
Who am I kidding, though? We’re a mess! California’s a mess, the whole country’s a mess! In fact, why do I even bother doing anything? I can’t even complete my to-do list. How dare I expect my students to do anything when I am monumentally ineffective! Even if I did succeed in helping a couple kids learn something, would it make a difference? I’m sending them off into a great, big mess!
Two minutes—that’s how long it takes my train of thought to go from a realm of feeling able to actually effect change to a realm so completely out of my reach that I recoil in despair and tell myself that everything I do is worthless.
Thank goodness for Stephen Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a fantastic book—at least that’s what I’ve heard (it’s still on my to-do list). My husband shared this tidbit with me after he read the book: the circles of concern and influence.
The circle of concern is large and full of everything in the world that concerns you. The circle of influence is smaller than the circle of concern. It fits inside the circle of concern and contains only the things that exist in your circle of concern that you can actually influence. People who wallow around in the circle of concern feel helpless because there’s nothing they can do.
Effective people, on the other hand, stick to the circle of influence. They focus on what they can do. The bonus is that the more people focus on what they can do and then actually do it, the larger their circle of influence becomes, further reaching into their circle of concern. In life you will always have both circles, of course, but what you do will determine the size ratio.
So whenever my mental train rounds the bend into the Land of Despair, I remind myself that it’s not that I must do everything; it’s that I must do something. I repeat this mantra until I believe it again, and then I return to my lesson-planning, my parent-calling, and my simple act of being there for my students.
Next stop: Circle of Influence. I can already feel it getting bigger.