For many years, I have been told that I am a great teacher. In fact, the first time I was told that was my second observation as a brand-new teacher. Ironic considering I did not feel great at all. I was told that I knew what I was doing, that it seemed like I was on the right path. And while it certainly made me happy to have gone through my observation unscathed and even with a compliment, it also confused me. How could I be a great teacher if I was so new? How could I not have things to work on in the classroom? How could this be the epitome of great?
So for years, I always hoped for feedback that I could use. For questions that would make me grow. Sometimes ideas were shared, most of the time they were not as administrators were overwhelmed with even more things to do. And so I found my own professional development. I tore myself apart trying to figure out what I needed to work on. I reached out to others so that I could grow. But I always hoped that one day I would work for an administrator that would push me as well.
Last year, was my first year as a 7th grade teacher, and my first observation left me sleepless and nauseated. After all, it was pretty clear to me (and the world) that 7th grade was so far out of my comfort zone and was my biggest challenge yet, and there was so much for me to still learn. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what would be observed that I may have missed, I didn’t know what would be said after.
So it was with great anticipation I went to my post-observation meeting with my principal. Anticipation because I longed to be given advice, to be pushed to reflect, to not just be told the good things but to find a path to grow. And I was not disappointed. While my principal pointed out the great, she also asked me to reflect. She gave me ideas that I could try for things she had seen that I had not. She left me articles and emailed me blog posts as she tried to support my growth. That was the first time in 7 years that someone had done that for me. That was the first time that someone said; yes, you have room to grow, even if you are good, and here are some ideas.
So to all of you incredible administrators out there, to all of you who observe. Please push us. Please guide us. Please tell us the great, but then also please tell us the things we need to improve on. Give us articles that may help, blog posts, videos, take the time to help us reflect and grow. Make it as big of a deal for you as it is for us.
Stay current yourself so that you can pass on the information to others. If you have never taught a grade level or subject that you have to observe, please learn about it. Do not assume that your experience will be enough. Please become knowledgeable so that we can use you as a mentor. Be a role model when it comes to learning and growth and share your knowledge freely. My principal, Shannon Anderson, is the epitome of lifelong learning. She is not afraid to admit when she does not know something, but she will always jump right in with you to find out. And she is not alone, I know others like her, but I also know some that are not.
I know I am asking a lot. I know that administrators have so much to do already, and yet, the role of observer and mentor is one to be cherished, one to be nurtured. To have the ability to influence someone else’s professional growth is not something that should be shoved to the bottom of a much too long to-do list. Instead, make it your passion, realize the potential influence you can exert and use that power for good.
Being told what to work on was not a slap in the face, not when done correctly, instead it was a chance for me to re-evaluate practices that I had forgotten about. To reexamine some things I thought I had figured out. It was a chance for me to learn. A chance to grow. A chance to not just be great but be better. And better is what I strive for every day.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.