being a teacher, community, school staff

I am Nothing Special – Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share their Successes?

Even in the staunchest of schools, teachers celebrate their students.  Whether it is through formal rewards, which I am not a fan of, or informal recognition, which is more my style.  We celebrate achievements, goals, and recognize our students for the incredible minds, people, and human beings they are.  Teacher brag about their students in the lounge, and to their families.  We are quick to share the funny things they and highlight the amazing ideas they concoct.  We blog, we film, and we sing their praises to those that will listen because we think they deserve it.

So why is it that within teaching, if a fellow teacher or a teaching team receives recognition we have a harder time celebrating it?  Why is it that we often see other’s achievements as a knockdown to our own abilities?  Why is the competition so fierce among teachers to be the one recognized that we cannot celebrate the successes we all have?

I work in a school with incredibly talented people, who have amazing successes every day.  You walk through our hallways and you will see the excitement in classrooms, you will see innovation wherever you go and teachers striving to do everything possible to reach each and every child.  I have often written about the incredible people I work with.  And I wish we celebrated it.  I wish people were recognized just as much as we recognize our students.

So administrators and fellow teachers; what do you do in your building to celebrate everyone, and not by handing out awards?  How do you recognize the achievements of all of your staff?  Where do you start your celebrations?  It is time we stand together and and decide that one person’s success is a whole school’s success and that we are only as strong as our team.  Educators should not be afraid to share the great things they do, they should be yelling them from the rooftops.

35 thoughts on “I am Nothing Special – Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share their Successes?”

  1. Thanks for writing this post. It's right on. Most teachers feel it's bragging to share the good news in education. On the contrary, I believe that sharing the good news means better teaching and learning for all. My principal leaves some faculty time for sharing, but it's never enough. I'd like to see idea systems in place in every school–systems where ideas are regularly shared and celebratedAlso, there needs to be culture shift that celebrates collaboration and sharing. I'll be interested to hear how others feel this can happen. Thanks again for posting this important topic.

  2. Pernille,You are so right! As teachers we need to share and celebrate our successes as professionals and practitioners. I too work at a school with some amazing educators who strive to reach out and provide the most challenging and engaging experiences for our children. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to document these experiences through photos, video footage, and blog posts. I am determined to showcase all the wonderful teaching and learning that is taking place at our school one classroom at a time! Have a look at our redesigned website that I have put together in my journey to celebrate my school. also want to commend my district and administrators for acknowledging a certified and classified employees each month along with end of the year recognitions such as Technology Award, Best Practices Award, School Spirit Award, and Resiliency Award.

  3. I couldn't agree more. Teachers are not the type of people running around celebrating what they do everyday. I also find that sometimes admin try to celebrate the successes by sharing with the staff, and then you still get the feeling that people feel threatened by others' success. One of the nicest things about this year is I have left a school where I felt I was a strong teacher and then administrator to a school where I definitely feel average at best. SO MANY bright minds and amazing educators. Some how at our school, they have found a way to celebrate all that they do without as much of those feelings of animosity. I don't know how they did it, but it is a nice place to work when you feel everyone is rooting for each other. Great post!

  4. Pernille,You are something special as are just about all teachers! Creating a school climate where we celebrate diversity and success is a huge challenge. It should begins with the principal. Let's start every faculty meeting with a celebration time! Teachers, you play a key role also -SPEAK UP. Celebrating each others success adds joy to our lives.

  5. Hey Pernille,I am not totally sure what you are asking here. You asked this, "What do you do in your building to celebrate everyone? How do you recognize the achievements of all of your staff?", yet you discuss about celebrating individual teachers. So I am just going to do my best on this comment.I think that recognition is something that should be personal. For example, if I know a teacher has done something great, talking with them, writing them a card, an email, anything, I think is totally warranted. Recognizing them in front of everybody I do not believe is necessary. If we are truly trying to make great schools, and not simply just have isolated great classrooms, I think it is necessary that we continue to recognize the efforts of the team. A school that says it is ALL about collaboration and then gives individual awards or recognition to someone in front of the entire staff is contradicting their words through their actions. Not good.If you look at the Bulls with Michael Jordan (sorry for the sports analogy), everyone knew who the best player was. The way Phil Jackson coached (and has been the most successful coach ever) was focusing on the team and working with individuals so that they could understand and bring their strengths to the team. Until that happened, they never won. When the mindset focused on the team, not individuals, is when they achieved their greatest success. I know through your posts, you believe that every child has strengths and I believe that carries on through adulthood. But if we are going to truly move education forward, it is not through the individual great teachers (that we have always had), but it is by teachers coming together and doing great things as a community (which we haven't always had). One of the roles of an administrator is bringing the team together towards a common vision, while working with individuals to help them find their purpose and strength towards that goal. A great administrator always focuses on the "abundance mentality" and does whatever they can to create great teams; each individual can serve the greater good.Thanks for the post.

  6. I am loving what people are sharing here and thank you George for pointing out my ambiguity. What I mean to say is; how do you create an environment where teachers are not afraid to share what they are successful at in their classrooms? Where staff is recognized and not just certain teachers? It does not have to be an award or anything, but how do you create an environment where teachers open up their doors and show the school what they are doing well without being afraid of others getting upset?

  7. Thanks for this great post. The great teachers I've seen in elementary schools are totally in the moment with their students. They are also very much about sharing their students' successes. When I taught 5th grade in NYC I was shocked when another teacher asked me if she could have a script of a play I'd written for my class so that she could do it. This prompted me to apply for grants and share more broadly. After a few years, I built a company and then sold it: Classic Theater for Children. This library of adaptations and board games sold in all 50 states and in 10 foreign countries. It would never have happened if I hadn't had some recognition from the teacher in the next room! Thank you again, Annette Hamburg :-)Teachers are generally not a self-promoting group: not in the job description and not a quality needed for the classroom. However, good ideas do need sharing and credit can be due. Hooray for social networks like this!

  8. Terrific conversation. I like the combined idea of fostering teacher sharing and discussion about best practices under the umbrella of collegiality and collaboration.What does that look like? How is it fostered in positive ways that best benefit students.

  9. @Pernille That is a great question!! One organizations struggle with but I am a big believer in helping change the culture to the idea of "hey look at me", which some teachers believe it is (wrongly I think), to "we share because it makes everyone better and makes our lives easier". For example, I have shared YOUR posts with my staff because of work and ideas that you have already done. No one dislikes you, but they speak highly of you because you have shared. With that in mind, I encourage them to share the great things so that we can help each other in our community.I think that if you talk openly about why you are sharing, as opposed to just doing it, more people will feel comfortable when you do it. I know it makes our organization better when individuals share.If they are still uncomfortable, you work with them, but continue doing the great work.

  10. I'll chime in here. This strikes a cord with me. I think that it takes time to cultivate a climate where people can feel comfortable and take pride in peers' accomplishments without resentment. I don't think it's fair for a principal to single out the same person or group of people every time, but I am okay with recognizing individuals for their accomplishments. The end goal is for all of us to learn from one another. That being said, there may be some individuals who aren't comfortable with public recognition, so a handwritten note as George suggests may be appropriate. But then how does that help other teachers learn from that teacher's wisdom?Most of the time, there are only a small number of people who become negative in the face of those celebrations of their colleagues' work. Are they jealous? Do they wish something they had done was highlighted instead? Do they feel like they have nothing to learn from the experiences of others? I think the way people REACT to situations like this say a lot about their character and commitment to the team effort. Sure, I could be bummed that my superintendent highlighted the accomplishments of one of my principal colleagues instead of me at an admin meeting. I can grumble about it, think, "That's not fair," and be a general grump about the whole thing. But what does that get me? Wrinkles. A feeling like I'm not good enough. Does it help my kids? Nope. Instead, I could take a look at what my colleague did, and I could learn from it. How could I apply those strategies to my work at my school? Could I ask my colleague to help me grow in those areas? This falls under an educator's responsibilities to demonstrate a willingness to continue learning and to serve as a team player. All of us have general strengths and weaknesses. In fact, maybe our needs should be broadcast more widely, too. "I am not very confident at achieving "x" with my students. Who can help me with that?" – What a great way to reach out and get feedback and support from peers.I think it's sad that people who are accomplishing wonderful things are being labeled as "principal's pets" or kiss-ups and the like just because of their hard work. Don't think for a second that the negativity displayed by their "professional" colleagues doesn't also make an impact on kids. The children we work with can sense those dynamics, and it's a shame so many teachers infect their classroom climates with that type of draining stress.It's when we become close-minded and centered on ourselves that the conflicts of celebrating the good work we do in schools arise. Let's not forget why we're here: to work together to do what's best for kids.

  11. I would agree with George and Lyn that it's a culture thing. A school community has to have the mindset of a team, that without all of the pieces, cannot live up to its potential. I think that a school community that discusses things that work, that problem solves together (and this includes administration) encourages celebration and positivity. That said, I also think that it's important to recognize each other personally for our successes and check in with each other. This can be as simple as a conversation, it doesn't need to be, as George stated, in front of the rest of the staff. It is amazing, though, how my colleagues shrink a little when I mention that they should blog about what goes on in their classrooms!

  12. The reason I'd like to see more teachers blog about their efforts is that it's a timely way to share. Classroom teachers are on task a large part of the day and after school many, like me, have extensive family obligations. So it's great to be able to sit down at night and read the rationale and description of successful teaching ideas and practices. Luckily there are many educators all over the world willing to share. This has improved my repertoire and craft greatly. In the school building we often don't have the time to share our thinking and practice so blogging could be one medium for this.

  13. Pernille – Great post. I appreciate that both George and Lyn have jumped in and helped clarify. I do have some issues here… Sharing IS seen as bragging, and I have definitely sensed resentment when my administrator sends an email encouraging the faculty to read one of my posts, or visit my classroom to see what I am doing. It makes me uncomfortable. I've been called an "overachiever" as though my actions are taken solely to make them look bad. Personally, I think what you are doing in the classroom gets out one way or the other, without the need to broadcast. Students talk, parents talk… I love the colleague that will come to me and say, "I would really love to hear more about what you're doing with ______." Then I have an invitation to share, and hopefully hear great things from them!@George and Lyn, You would be surprised at how much those little love notes mean! The recognition that we are putting in the extra time and going the extra mile for the benefit of our students is evident in our classrooms daily, and yet knowing that it is noticed and appreciated by you is huge. @Pernille – I could write a book on what I have learned from you – about blogging, connecting, grades… You are an invaluable resource for me, and your sharing (of the good and the bad) is MUCH appreciated!

  14. Pernille,Thank you for writing this post as this is something that has weighed very heavily on my mind lately. It is truly sad when we cannot celebrate one another and learn/grow from those experiences. I will share a short example that I have hesitated to even share on my own blog. Recently, I was named as one of the finalists as teacher of the year for my state. Personally, I was proud of it but also felt awkward because I did not know how my fellow teachers in my building would feel about it. I posted the link to the press release on my Facebook page where numerous people such as yourself congratulated me. However, not one person that I work with made a comment or even clicked "like" on the post. Since then, I have had numerous newspaper articles written about me and the work I have done that with the exception of a few of my close friends at work, none of the teachers that I work with on a daily basis have even said a word to me about it. Rather, I hear whispers of negativity and relatively rude comments about me instead. This bothers me because I didn’t ask for any of this happen. I truly was going about my work and trying to be the best teacher I could be…nothing more.Now, don’t construe this as a rant where I am mad other teachers don’t kiss up to me because that is certainly not what it is. I didn’t ask for the attention, and personally, don’t care for it. However, I know that with this attention I am getting my students are better for it. It is giving me an opportunity to share about the work I am doing and the profession I love. It is not my work that is being highlighted as much as that of my students and it is a testament to my students, parents, fellow teachers and entire community. I am not sure if it is jealously or some level of insecurity that prohibits some teachers from being proud of each other. When our fellow teachers get recognition or doing something well, we are all part of that. I know that I would not be where I am at or be getting the recognition I am without the people I work with. Each and every one of them have contributed to the teacher I am today regardless of if they know that or not. Anytime positive attention is given to a teacher it benefits the entire school community because it brings that positive attention to a profession that is often short on it. Thanks for writing this post!Josh

  15. I have to agree with George and Lyn on the culture of the building. As the leader in my school I try to cultivate a culture that celebrates success. When I am in classrooms I try to give either verbal or email feedback that is positive and comments on their strengths. In my weekly Monday Memo to my staff I include a section of "great things I noticed last week.". I also encourage staff to recognize each other by filling out a "Kudos to …. For …" slip. I start out our pd mtgs by reading from the kudos slips.

  16. Great post! I believe we are constantly modeling to our students. So if WE don't celebrate OUR success, why would they? I have had teachers say that when I do celebrate our collective success, that I am self-promoting. To me, that's a negative vibe I don't care to be a part of. If teachers celebrate the success of their recognitions, wouldn't they also be bringing recognition to their classes and students? And their schools? Doesn't America need more positive news about our public education system? Unfortunately, people tend to look at the negative first.

  17. I have to argee with George, Lyn, & Marybeth it is the culture of the school. We all need to realize we approach teaching in a number of different ways and have strengths and weaknesses and be comfortable with it. It is not a weakness to ask someone for help or how they do something. It's really a strength.We are trying by having teachers visit other classrooms and writing a reflection, having discussions on our school Wiki, by sharing at meetings & with our tech Wednesdays. Small steps that are make dents. In fact, I just thought of something that would make those teacher visits more meaningful. Teachers that observe schedule an appointment with the other teacher for further discussion and to answer quesitons.

  18. What a great conversation and one I have struggled with over the last few years. After joining twitter and blogging has become more natural, I have become better at being more bold in what I share. I, like Josh, have spoken at national, state, and local conferences and have brought back the best to share. I have also been published in Ed Leadership as well as local newspaper articles. I also don't want the recognition necessarily for myself, but everything I do is for and with students – I skype them in to presentations, they are interviewed for their opinions in articles, I spend hours trying to become a better educator. With that, I have never received any kind of faculty recognition. So, to get to Pernille's question – I am not sure why teachers are afraid. Is it because they have been so isolated over the years and don't quite "get" the sharing and collaboration? Maybe it is the competition culture we have as most only understand awards. I am not sure. My former principal did a celebration of success at faculty meetings where we filled out cards about how we appreciate one another, but now it just seems forced. And if there weren't any, then he did them. For now, twitter is my celebration of success/collaboration – my PLN gives me all the encouragement, support I need. But sometimes it would be great to walk in the hall and have a colleague I work with say, "hey, read the article and would love to hear more." Just as the student culture needs to change, so does the culture educators have of isolation. For now, maybe it will start with me as I look to start a conversation with another colleague on what is going on in their classroom.

  19. Such am interesting topic. I think it is linked with a buildings culture. The more insecurity teachers have about their own skills, the more threatened they will be by others successes if there is not a culture of sharing and asking for help. The real question is how do we nurture a culture that can celebrate success and give/accept critical feedback? The post from stump teacher made me so sad. I value his tweets and blog so much!

  20. Just a quick note: I don't think we'll ever get anywhere on this topic unless there is a shared understanding about the terms used in the post and throughout the comments. Terms like 'sharing', 'culture', 'celebration', etc. are thrown around so often, and used in so many contexts outside of education, that they no longer are commonly understood. For instance, one's definition of sharing is bragging, another's is seeking affirmation, or it may mean sharing resources (and being open with materials, student work, etc.) to another.Language is tricky, and meanings are nuanced and contextual – but without striving towards a sufficient base of shared understanding, we grind in circles, never really coming any closer to the ills that ail us.

  21. I have an anonymous post it note above my desk. I do not know wo wrote it, but it is the nicest and most important affirmation I have had all year. 'Thanks for raising the bar', This was part of what I have attempted to achieve in my role as domain leader. I may not have succeeded in many ways – but this note reminds me my work is appreciated by at least one and that makes it all worthwhile. Funny how meaningful such a note can be. A culture of affirmation is really important for the overall moral of a school.

  22. Wow, what an incredible collection of stories and discussion happening here. It always amazes me when I am not the only one pondering these things and other people's ability to share. @Josh I am so saddened by your story, how sad is it thta some people cannot realize that one teacher's success shines a bright light on the whole community? You did not ask for the recognition but got it and I am glad for you.@Alec So true. Some people see sharing as bragging or highlighting themselves whereas others see sharing as a way to collaborate. Until the majority decide on a common language how far can we take the discussion?So on that note, I hope that this conversation continues. I hope that people will try to establish or further nurture a culture that invites collaboration of successful teaching strategies or idea. One that lifts teachers up as individuals and also as teams. One where saying you need help is seen as a strength and not as a weakness and one where it is not just the administrators who carry the torch of recognition but all staff members.

  23. I would like to add to this discussion with the related topic of reference groups and how they affect our attitudes, beliefs and behavior. Including new research by political scientist, James Fowler, and physician and social scientist, Nicholas Christakis. As there is not enough room to post this here, please see my article: The Teaching Environment is Contagious – Spread Happiness!Copy and past the link below in your browser to read. Best, Cynthia

  24. As I've shared with you in our personal discussions, Pernille, there have definitely been times when I or my kids have done really special things that were celebrated by some, reviled by others. I can't concern myself for too long with those people. This isn't really a response to your question but a corollary to what you wrote about.In one of our meetings last year, an AP suggested we have a meeting to share best practices. Sadly, it never materialized. It would be so wonderful for us to have opportunities to see firsthand the awesomeness going on in many other classrooms, but this becomes an afterthought, sadly.The greatest byproduct would be the burned-out teachers who complain about their jobs getting a chance to be exposed to innovations and ideas that would possibly bring them out of their funks. But then again, I suppose you'll always have people who can't celebrate others. We need to remember a rising tide lifts all boats…Really sad.

  25. Pernille, seems I am a bit late to the party once again but I would like to chime in.I, like George, need to use a sports analogy too as growing up, hockey was my life and I have played with 'teams with the best players and players with the best team'.The best way to improve any person's skills is through descriptive feedback. No successful coach stands on the bench and praises individuals and tells them that others need to be like them. Successful leaders (coaches, teachers, admin, etc) have individual conversations that recognize both the successes and struggles and provide feedback through a second set of eyes on how to improve or look at things differently. As a principal, I NEVER stand in front of the school and recognize one teacher for what they have done… I recognize teams of teachers by thanking them for their EFFORTS (keying on the growth mindset). Private conversations based on performance feedback is what has always driven me to become better.The truly effective 'team' is something that I have yet to personally observe in a school. On our hockey teams, players and coaches constantly provided feedback to each other on the bench and on the ice. We were always reflecting and planning through honest feedback about how things have gone. I don't see this is in schools very often (although I have read about them). Very rarely, do we have teams of educators that challenge each other and share successes on a regular basis. My plan is to try to encourage this through small group discussions at our school and build from there but, to be honest, meeting with each other for 90 minutes per month (as per contract) makes creating trusting dialogue a challenge. I need to find other ways to create time for us to meet.So, I guess what I am trying to say is that there needs to be TRUST in that we can challenge and share with each other all the important things that are happening in our classes. We should not be providing awards or public praise for individuals as this creates a competitive, rather than collaborative, culture. OUR students are ALL of our students… their successes depends on those who taught before us as well as those who support and challenge us. As leaders, we need to provide as much time as we can for our staff to build trust through conversations around how our kids are doing. We (students, teachers and admin) also need to provide individual descriptive feedback on an ongoing basis.Someone once said that "a friend will be there for you to support you during the tough times; a TRUE friend will be there to do this AND share your successes". Replace 'friend' with 'team' and I think that is where we need to go.Lastly, if people agree with me that we should not be publicly praising individual teachers over others… why do we do this with kids?

  26. Craig, Your method sounds like a melting pot versus a tossed salad.(I'm currently having lunch) Does your school have a teacher of the year? If so are you involved in recognizing the teacher? I'm all for team work but I would love to know what the other teachers are doing in my school throughout the year. How do you get the word out?The principal may be the only one aware of some wonderful best practices, talents that might be shared and so on. In your system I don't hear any room for an MVP. Teachers are motivated for different reasons. Some may prefer the private chat, others may thrive on the public recognition. I just want to know that I am a member of a team made up of many talented individuals. How can I know this if people aren't recognized more than once year?

  27. I don't see a Craig so I think that comment is for me. We will NEVER do a teacher of the year much like as a coach, we never did MVP. I believe that each teacher bring their strengths into the team and others can benefit from them.I know there are some that thrive on public recognition but I do not think this benefits the team and so we use private recognition. What we do, though, is encourage others to lead by sharing successes in their learning. For example, teachers have shared to the staff on edtech and literacy and this is something I would like to see more of in the future.IMO, it is through the small group dialogue that we should begin to challenge each other to do better and share the successes, rather than by me sharing what I see as successful. In addition, teachers need to observe each other in the classroom. These are all qualities of an effective PLC.Recognizing people once a year does nothing to motivate or dpush us forward. Successes need to be shared throughout the year not as bragging but as stories of what is helping OUR students to succeed.

  28. I am currently in my last year of college, in my Teacher Assisting semester! My College of Education program has decided to try pairing up mathematics majors and put them in the classroom together to learn from one another. I have heard from other TAs in other areas of study that they would feel that it would be a competition in the classroom. It's been about four weeks since we've been together and I feel as though we thrive off of each others successes and learn from each others failures.Thanks for the post!

  29. Great conversation here, and I think I have a reason teachers don't share enough…Teachers lack confidence in what they are doing and therefore are hesitant to share. You'd think that confidence wouldn't be an issue in people who are constantly leading a class, but teachers don't have enough opportunities to observe each other teach or even teach together. Most teachers are doing a great job in their classrooms, but don't have the bigger perspective to see that what they are doing could really benefit others. Our job as building leaders are to give teachers opportunities to share, work together, and help each other.

  30. I hope you don't mind that I continue to follow and comment on this conversation. It's very important to me as our school is working towards greater collaboration. The sports team analogies resonate with me, and make me wonder if the difference lies in transparency of goals and vision. At a hockey game, the goal is clear–winning the game. At school, goals can be vague. Seems to me that identifying and working towards specific goals collaboratively will lead to the kind of collegial sharing and discussions all agree are effective. Thanks again for prompting such an important discussion with your post.

  31. I agree with you Maureen that sports analogies are problematic for that reason, and also because sports involves explicit competition while that is not our agenda in schools.I don't feel I can add any more value to this conversation, except to say that I am honored to be in a PLN of people who discuss issues in this honest, respectful way. I love you guys.

  32. Hello!!!My name is KaShondra Rudolph. I am an EDM310 student at the University of South Alabama. I am on a Junior and have not yet made it to the level most of you are now. Although I am not yet very familiar with what goes on in most schools, I am really enjoying the conversations going on here. From the work that I have done with teachers, I feel that teachers all feed off each others success. When the teachers recognize the one teacher that goes above and beyond, most acknowledge him or her and try to fall into their footsteps. I have seen a few teachers who do not want to be recognized for their accomplishments due to the thought of others adopting ideas and making better replicas of them.

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