When will it be enough? When will all the efforts we make to do the best — no, more than our best — be enough? Is enough even something to aspire to? Is enough even possible? Who determines what enough is?
Yes, we know when we have had enough food to eat. We often know when we’ve had enough pain in a relationship. But why do educators in particular struggle with the concept of being and doing enough? We expect our school leaders and district-level administrators to be more than enough, do more than enough. We expect parents to do enough for their children. We expect teachers to be doing more than enough in order to just meet the standards. We get upset at state and federal entities for not doing enough. And sometimes, it is clear that what has been done is insufficient to address an issue or solve a problem. Yet, I also believe that our ideas of what is “enough” are rooted in our own experiences, our own shortcomings, comparing ourselves to others, and unfortunately, what others have told us enough should look like.
We should be careful when attempting to determine what someone else’s “enough” should be. It is impossible to know the capacity of every individual with whom we come into contact. It would be so much easier if we started from a strength-based perspective that assumes that most people go into situations with the intention of doing their best, which for them, is either the minimum required or for others, a little more than is required. If we just maintained the mindset that we are all doing the best we can with what we have, we might be able to make even more progress and have greater influence.
There is a perception that school leaders and classroom educators should be perfect in all they do and make no mistakes. Yet as a principal, everything that happens or does not happen in your school is because of you. You own everything. So when it seems like something is not enough for someone, school leaders, in particular, feel that deeply and either try to correct it or find another solution. However, for our own mental health, it is important to remain clear about what belongs to someone else and what is truly yours.
Many of our students are still struggling to learn how to be in school, the norms, learning and behavioral expectations, and even how to coexist with other students in a classroom space. I can see the progress many of our students are making, but there are some who are barely holding it together and then the explosions occur over what seems to adults (and even students) to be small things. Students consistently need reassurance that they are worthy, that they are in charge of their learning and their behaviors, and that the adults are there to support them along the way — that they are enough. This pandemic has been traumatic in so many ways and that collective trauma is evidenced in our schools every day. No one really knows how to handle it! We are all doing the best we can. Enough.
Adults in schools, it seems, are also just barely holding on and need reminders that they can do their jobs well, that they have the same skills they had pre-pandemic and the same skills they learned during remote learning that they can blend together to move our students forward. Teachers’ expectations of school and district leaders are on a short rope and there sometimes seems to be little room for grace and error. We are all doing the best we can. Enough.
Families are trying to survive. Many families are still in survival mode, working to ensure the health, safety, and security of their loved ones. While many are very supportive of schools and teachers, there are others who are finding it hard to extend grace and patience to educators, which of course adds to the heaviness that educators already feel. Some people feel that it is the job of others to make them feel better, to feel connected, to feel that they can go on. When we fail to remember that we are not alone in experiencing this pandemic and place blame on someone else, we stifle forward movement and inflict even more harm on one another. We are all doing the best we can. Enough.
Saying that we are all doing the best we can and that we are indeed enough is not a rally cry for not striving to do better or to rationalize being complacent or lazy. Rather, it is the acknowledgment that whatever we are doing in that moment, who we are in that moment, is exactly what is needed at that time. Enough.
So, enough with trying to tear people down. Enough with working against good. Enough passing the buck and looking for someone else to do what you can do. Enough with working ourselves past the point of exhaustion. Enough of not asking for help. Enough with deficit thinking about our students’ performance. Enough with making assumptions about our teachers, school, and district leaders’ skills, levels of commitment, and heart for children. Enough.
I’m just going to continue to do the best that I can for myself, the students, colleagues, and the families that I serve. I will not be perfect. I will make mistakes. I will not do it like someone else did. That will just need to be enough.