Healthy frustration is good guide for keeping goals realistic

To celebrate the new year, I purchased inexpensive software for an online calendar/to-list with all the bells and whistles. The new software would allow me to create multiple color-coded calendars (work, personal, fitness), task lists color-coded by priority level, pop-up reminders and email reminders that would never let me forget all the things that I should be doing.

I would be able to overlay the calendars to identify any conflicts and display my calendars by year for long-range planning and by month, week and day for short-term planning.

As I clocked hour after hour over the holiday working out the kinks of my new software, I thought about all the time my calendar would save me if I ever got it running. The company wisely does not provide chat support or phone support. Customers must send an email if they have a problem and wait for a response that the company promises will appear in your inbox in a 24-hour period.

While waiting for a response on a problem I was having with syncing my new calendar with Google calendar, I scoured the online documentation, the FAQs and support forums and tried the same things over and over again. This was no longer healthy frustration.

Recently, two ERN webinar speakers, Marcy Cook and Jim Knight, spoke about the importance of keeping frustration at a healthy level in 2 entirely different contexts. Marcy Cook spoke about teaching K-8 math and Jim Knight spoke about using video to work with teachers to improve instruction.

When teaching math, Marcy says teachers need to challenge children enough to keep them motivated and engaged, but not so much that they will get discouraged and demoralized. An important job for many math teachers is to figure out where that healthy level of frustration is for each of their students.

In using video to help teachers improve, Jim says coaches need to tread carefully and be aware that when teachers see a video of themselves in the classroom it can be frustrating. It’s frustrating because it highlights the gap between a teacher’s dreams and aspirations and the reality. Yet, it opens the door to making realistic changes and improvements. Somehow, the coach must help the teacher work in a spirit of healthy frustration rather than unhealthy frustration.

My unhealthy frustration with my calendar software was trying to tell me something. I was in over my head and did not have the knowledge and skill level to figure this out on my own. Email support was on holiday. At this rate, the calendar would never save me as much time as I was putting into it.

It was time to set a more sensible goal. I dropped the syncing idea for the moment and focused on setting up a good desktop calendar. While a new year, whether it is a new calendar year or a new school year, is likely to fire us up with plans and aspirations for ourselves and our students, Marcy Cook and Jim Knight remind us that you can only set the bar so high, so fast. Healthy frustration is a good way to help guide us in setting a realistic pace.

Related resources:

Webinar with Jim Knight now available on CD-ROM “How to use video effectively to coach teachers to make improvements in instruction “

Webinar with Marcy Cook now available on CD-ROM “How to create a math classroom that motivates and engages students”

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