Give it a rest

“Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good gets better and your better best.” It was the middle of an intensive CELTA and I was exhausted. I still had to put finishing touches on the lesson plan, but I just couldn’t take it any more. I had to sleep. So I set the alarm for 4h later (a sleeping luxury, as most CELTees will assure you) and tried to tune out.

In my slumber, a voice whispered again, “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good gets better and your better best.” The mantra was on repeat. Why had my classmate decided to teach me her mother’s motto for her high-achieving family? Argh. I got up to finish the lesson plan and didn’t sleep for more than an hour that night. Yes, the “finishing” touches did take that long. On the following morning, I delivered the lesson I had to teach, but the lesson plan looked blurred when I needed to check it, I wasn’t thinking on my feet, and I could barely listen to what my students were saying.

I did sacrifice myself a bit there, but surely a job worth doing is a job worth doing well, right? You can’t possibly expect a lot from your students and wing it when it comes to lesson planning or professional development, can you?

Yes, I agree, but to an extent. There must be limits. As my mother would say, “perfect is the enemy of good.” I’m not saying we should slack. We are professionals after all. However, there must be such a thing as good enough. Good enough for now, at least. Because being too anxious can indeed be counterproductive. Teacher anxiety can lead to demotivation and burnout, sometimes even prompting some to leave the profession. And in my personal experience, anxiety can lead to classes that are less than brilliant, too.

I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t strive to do better, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be much of a teacher if I didn’t believe in the potential we all have to keep improving ourselves. But when I look back at my career, I find that I became a much better teacher the moment I learned to let my hair down a little, to relinquish control, to accept that things won’t be “perfect” (whatever that means) all the time.


Because good better best only works when you rest. 😉

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Natália Guerreiro

Natália Guerreiro has been a teacher since the year 2000 and currently works in Aviation English assessment and teaching for the Brazilian Air Force. She holds a CELTA, a B.A. in English & Portuguese from UFRJ, and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Melbourne. She's been elected BRAZ-TESOL's Second Vice President for the 2019-2020 term.

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