On Friday, I stood on the stage at EARCOS in front of hundreds of passionate educators from all over Asia and told them my story of change. The story of how my students have changed me. It was met with applause, with careful words shared after about how they felt inspired, moved, how what I had said mattered and how they wish more educators had been there to hear this powerful message. I felt on top of the world. As if I mattered, as if the words I spoke mattered, as if I had made a difference. Like I had it all figured out.
Today, some of my students reminded me that our class is boring, that what we are doing doesn’t matter much, and that no, they were not happy to be back after spring break, thank you very much. Ah, the life of teaching 7th grade.
So much changes in a few days.; from high praise, hugs, and admiration from fellow educators to sometimes harsh words served up frankly from the very students I serve.
It seems that I am not the perfect teacher after all, but I knew that already, even before today, because I teach students who speak up. Who sometimes forget to say the nice before they get straight to the point. Who have no problem pointing out what they dislike, but still are working on how we can make things better together. Who, yes, sometimes like our class, but often push me to be better, to try harder, to keep thinking.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In fact, if it weren’t for my own students, I wonder how much of the hype I would end up believing. Probably all of it. After all, it is hard not to believe someone when they tell you just how much you matter and how great of a teacher you seem. And yet, it is easy to say someone is a great teacher, coach, administrator, fill in the blank, when you are not in their classroom or schools.
And so I wonder what happens when we don’t have the presence of those we serve to put us straight. When we leave the classroom, or the school, or the job and no longer are in touch with those who our words affect the most. When we only hear the good but don’t get a lot of bad?
What happens when our great ideas no longer really have to stand the test of time? When our great ideas and “just do’s” don’t actually have to face the test of our own classrooms?
How do we keep ourselves in check if all we get is admiration? Who brings us back down to Earth to remind us of how teaching continues to be a challenge, even when we think we have it all figured out.
I see it play out in social media all of the time. From the inspirational tweets that seem more quippy the older I get. From the followers that rush in to excuse any old statement someone makes because surely they didn’t mean to sound like an idiot, or condescending, or like a know it all. To how we end up equating followers and likes with quality, with actual work, with some being “rockstars” or somehow better than “just” the regular educators. How we constantly seek inspiration to be just like those who forget to share their failures, who somehow appear more than the rest of us.
I think it is a dangerous thing. I think it is too easy to take oneself too seriously. I think it is easy to write about only the good and not share the bad. I think it is really easy to compose posts, tweets, or pictures that only tell half the story. Yet, showing off flaws, off failures, off the not so great is what makes us all human. Is what makes us actually relatable as educators. I have never claimed to be a perfect teacher, nor will I ever, my students would tell you that there are great moments, and then there are boring ones, just like in most classroom.
And so for that, I am grateful. For their honesty, I am thankful. Because if it weren’t for my students, it would be easy to think that I was more than I am; just a teacher still trying to figure out how to become better. Not someone who already knows it all.
So who keeps you in line? And how do you grow from their words?
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first 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.