Throughout all of this, however, I had a more subversive voice running through my head.
It's taken me a number of years to recognize that a lot of my teaching was really based on the question, "Can I be criticized for this?" Many of the improvements I've made to the process were not spurred by a desire to better my instruction for the sake of the students, but to better protect me in the event of an observation, a comment from a parent, or even a criticism from a student.
This puts the focus not on the subject being learned but on myself. It may have an end-benefit that raises the level of my instruction, but at its core it takes away something. If I suceed, I will be satisfied at having accomplished that which may in fact be far from what the children need.
Perhaps they need me to take a risk. Perhaps they need to learn how to take risks.
We do not teach in an environment that is conducive to risk taking. We are encouraged to "cover ourselves" all the time. This attitude may take its toll on our love for teaching by exhausting us in a fruitless, endless struggle which can put us at cross-purposes with the goals we have in mind for ourselves, our students and our community.
Can I be criticized for teaching this way? Probably not, and that's the worst thing of all.
My goal is now to become aware of that subversive little voice and make a distinction between being conscientious, which is necessary and good, versus eliminating myself as a potential target, which is not in the end what I had in mind.