Do you know what one of the most dangerous words out there is? Should. It is an evil little word we use on ourselves and others to apply pressure when our perfectionism starts taking over.

Right now I am in the throes of report cards, and I have been should-ing myself to death: I SHOULD be done writing reports by now, I SHOULD be doing more for my students; I SHOULD be helping my colleagues more. No, I shouldn’t. I would like to, and my perfectionist brain is trying to turn “I would like to” into “I have to”, which gives us “should”.

As teachers, we should ourselves constantly. And, the only thing that really comes out of it, is more stress. Instead of being honest with ourselves about when things need to be done by, how much we really need to do in a given situation, or what the expectations of us are, we take our ideal and try for force that to be the reality. Consequently, we’re working harder, towards harsher deadlines, and for increasingly more outlandish goals. And we’re the ones to blame! Yes, there are increasing external demands being put on teachers, but we’re not helping the situation.

Possibly even worse than should-ing ourselves, is when we start should-ing our students. Please stop doing that. One of the worst things we, as teachers, can say to our students is “You should be doing better”. No, we would like them to be doing better, and probably they would like to be doing better, too. “Should” leads to “Have to”, which increases perfectionist tendencies, which causes stress. Students already have enough stress. We don’t need to be adding to it.

Should is a word we need to ban. Be honest with yourself and your students. Is it a situation of “I’d like to” or “I have to”. Don’t try to turn the former into the latter. We already have enough stress in our lives. Why create more?

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