Five reminders for when I feel insecure

Do you know how I feel each time I watch a teacher on YouTube? I feel like a crappy teacher. They make it look so easy, so natural. And look at the students ! They are so well behaved, they respond to verbal and non verbal cues, they rarely have side conversations, they answer a myriad of questions without ever getting distracted or bored. Surely, I must be a crappy teacher because I can’t get my students to do/be like that.

If you feel like me, here are five reminders to help us change our mindset:

1. Teachers usually post stuff they are proud of.

So, here is a 3 min excerpt of me providing rather poor input to my students (prior any formal training on how to provide CI, ca. 2013). Watch as I use isolated vocab words, barely any language in context, stubbornly refuse to translate the words “viande” (meat) and “oeuf” (egg), and instead waste everyone’s time by using gestures and sound effects while my poor students keep asking me what “viande” means. This is where I was in my journey at the time. I would not allow myself to speak English. This was a necessary step in order to be where I am now. I am on a journey. Teachers on YouTube are on a journey. We are all on a journey.

2. Where Teachers teach matters as much as how skilled they are at what they do.

Here are three videos of Story Listening at two different schools. You don’t have to watch the whole thing but upon watching a minute or so of each, in which video do I look like a better teacher?

Here is a video Story Listening with a class of 25 7th graders at school #1.

Here is a video of Story Listening with a class of 25 Kindergartners at school #1.

Here is a video of Story listening with a class of 20 8th graders at school #2.

Actually, I am the same teacher in all three videos, not better, not worse because these videos were taken within months of each other. Granted, I did have a lot more stories behind my belt in the last video. But that is not the reason why kids are quiet and attentive in video #3.

In fact, I posted these Story Listening videos from both schools on my YouTube channel because I wanted to show that kids have different ways of being engaged with stories. A quiet and attentive class (video #3) is impressive but a class that reacts out loud to your story (video #1 and #2) is really really fun and rewarding too!

3. How many kids are in the class and how long s/he has been with these kids is a super big deal.

Relationships are not built in a day. Enough said.

4. There has most likely been PD, practice, sweat, tears, and maybe even blood before arriving to this particular video.

I have been told that when I do Story Listening, I “make it look easy” but the truth is when I started transitioning to this method, I practiced every night at home. I scripted everything, I practiced my drawings, I practiced my pace, I practiced with my husband, I practiced with my kids. Until the day I felt comfortable with doing a little less practice, and a little less, and a little less, until I was finally ready to fly with minimum prep.

5. And finally, as the insightful Justin Slocum Bailey reminded me: “I am enough for my students.”

These five reminders have really helped me to be grateful for people who share their stuff, to continue watching teachers on YouTube, and to learn from them without feeling (too) insecure. I hope they will help you too!


  1. Thank you for being so generous! For putting yourself out there, so that we can learn from you! These perspectives are just what I need right now. I’ve been thinking of videoing my classes, but I still haven’t worked up the nerve – mostly because I feel like they are such a mess! I especially struggle with my 1st and 2nd graders. It is such a challenge to build a relationship with them when I only see them for 30 minutes once a week. My mom (who taught 1st and 2nd grade for 30 years) keeps telling me that I’m not really teaching German in these early weeks – I’m teaching classroom management. That’s tough to swallow, because I want to get right in there and share German with them. But I think it also makes sense to build this relationship, so that we can do more later. And it’s not that I’m not getting any German to them! One of the administrators in my school also recently said, “What if this is the best this student can do right now?” When little 6-year-olds won’t stop talking, that is somehow a comforting perspective 🙂 And all of your reminders here are also extremely helpful! Danke & Merci!!

    • Oh Kate I have been there! Establishing healthy listening practices is tough with young children. Your mom is so wise and I love what your admin said. Wow, I would almost want to put what he said on a small poster by my desk to remind myself of it on the tough days.

      My expectations for K-1 were:
      1. They are not talking while I am narrating but they are welcome to react when I pause or draw
      2. Their comments are relevant to the story
      3. They are not shouting during the story
      4. They are not preventing others to listen to the story
      It took months to see an improvement during the stories but little by little with lots of modeling and patience, I started seeing the progress, until one day they followed a story for 19 minutes! It will happen to you too, I know it. You should start filming, even if you feel it is not perfect. When they break a rule, stop, redirect, and jump back into the story. It is hard to watch yourself but it is a source of growth (and self-compassion). Bis bald!

  2. This is the BEST. I have a couple classes this year that I would not like to have filmed. And in one of them, there are always at least three observers right now: a university practicum student, the home room teacher, and an aide or two for a student with ASD. I often feel that if I could be by myself, it would be easier to just be myself. I’m getting there…but it’s slow! Thank you for sharing these.

  3. Merci mille fois! This article arrived at exactly the right time for me. It’s been a crisis of confidence for me this year. I’m in my 19th year teaching and I thought I had it all figured out. My district adopted a new textbook that’s not age appropriate and too difficult for middle school. On top of that, we hired a new Spanish teacher who is fantastic. She uses comprehensible input and the students love her class. I feel like an old dog trying to learn new tricks and not being very good at it. A bit overwhelming. Headed to a CI workshop in November. It can’t come soon enough.

    • Jennifer, you are most likely already providing comprehensible input in your class, but shifting to making it a priority takes time and practice. I applaud you for even wanting to make this shift. Please be kind to yourself. I am excited for your journey. What can I do to help? Where are you located?

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