aha moment, being a teacher, being me

Know Your Place


When I was a second year teacher I was told to know my place.  To remember that although I might have a voice, I should be more careful.  That I should not ask so many questions, nor share quite so many ideas.  That some things would be better left unsaid because I had not earned the right to say them.  And not just told it either.  No, for extra emphasis it was written as part of my official evaluation that year.  In my permanent record lest I ever forget that I had a place to be in.  That the place I needed to be in was one of new teacher that followed most of the rules and certainly did not question so much.

I remember I went back to my classroom shell-shocked.  When I closed the door, I cried. Maybe this teaching thing was not for me after all.  Maybe asking questions was wrong.  It certainly seemed that way.

So I took the lesson to heart; I shut my door, metaphorically and literally.  I had to.  I could not face what some others saw me as; a know-it-all new teacher that thought she had such great ideas.  I skittered through the rest of the year watching every single word I spoke, always telling myself to just stay quiet, think it but not say it.  To hide the new.  To not share.  After all, I needed to stay in my place, whatever that place might be.

By the end of the year I wanted to quit.  It turns out that eating your own words leaves you hollow after awhile.  But I didn’t, instead I changed, and as they say; the rest is history.

So for the past 6 years I have carried those words with me.  I have known my place every single step of the way.  Never forgetting that I do have a place in this world, in education.  Never forgetting that, really, we all have a place if we only knew where.

So what I know now is that my place is with my students asking them what I can change. To realize that I am not a perfect teacher, nor do I have all of the answers, but that I will spend every ounce of energy I have to try to make it better for them.

That my place is among colleagues who push my thinking and always have what’s best for kids in mind.  That while we may not always agree, we always respect, we always have each other’s back even when we have to have tough conversations.

That my place is on this blog sharing how I screw up so that others may learn from it without having to experience it.

Among the teachers that feel alone, much like I did so many days as I tried to change myself.

Among the people who question and show up every day trying make themselves better because they know they have a long way to go.

Among those that still doubt but try any way.

Among those that dare to dream.

Among those that still cry when it hurts.

Among those that know that even a small change makes a difference.

Those that change.

Those that question.

Those that fight.

6 years ago I was told to know my place and so I went looking for it.    It was not pretty.  I was not perfect.  I was not always right.  I did not always know what I needed to know.  Yet within that quest, I found myself.  So I ask today; do you know your place?  Because if not, you should probably search for it some 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.



13 thoughts on “Know Your Place”

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I could be the author. It is my story, down to the time line. I left that place where I was told to hold back and things have opened up for me in my new place. I enjoy your blog and especially enjoy this post.

  2. Please keep speaking for students and teachers alike. I believe you are following your calling and I appreciate your sharing.

  3. This post rings true for many of us, I am sure. That’s why we are all drawn together as kindred spirits–because we “get” each other and know that each of us has a place and a voice to be heard. Thank you for always speaking so honestly, Pernille. You inspire me!

  4. This applies so aptly in our personal lives as well. You inspire me too Pernille. Your grounded, open-minded and well balanced thinking is a joy to read.

  5. When I asked questions, I was told that things didn’t pertain to me. It may not pertain to me, but it pertains to my students and students everywhere. Thanks for sharing your voice and the very real world of education that we live in.

  6. I was once in a teaching situation that not only wanted me to know my place, they wanted me to go back to school. I already had my masters at the time. I left and found a new place, one that welcomed my ideas and my expertise. This is a tough business. Thanks for this post. I’m glad you stuck with it.

  7. When people leave a meeting saying that it was the best meeting ever. No one disagreed. Everyone all just get along. I wonder who didn’t have the nerve to speak. Opinions make for a great ending. Silence is deadly!

  8. Such a great post with very true feelings, and you don’t have to be a second year teacher to relate. Bring “new” is hard-mostly because you’re different. Thank you for writing this and helping some of us feel less alone.

  9. Thank you! For putting into words what so many of us have tormented in our minds. My next blog post is about the difference between collegiality and congeniality in the workplace and the importance of having both. My problem…WHO is allowed to have those difficult conversations?

  10. Thank you for this post. I’ve re-read it many times over the last year to remind myself where my place is… and that it’s not amongst those telling me to know it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s