I have spent the last few hours quietly wandering around NCTE, trying to listen more than talk, processing, pondering, and also trying to reflect on the work that lies ahead when I return to room 235d this Monday. When the reality of what it means to teach comes back versus this dream world where we sit and discuss how we can change what we do to make it work for all kids. To work for all adults.
And yet, the learning doesn’t have to end when we return to our school. The conversation doesn’t have to end. Only if we make it. Because in our school, every day, we are surrounded by people who have ideas. By people whose voices may not have been heard, yet. People whose ideas have not grown past their own classroom doors. And yet, how many of us will go back and try to engage in the same professional conversations that we engage in when we leave our schools? How many of us would rather go to a professional development day than spend a day immersed with our colleagues, trying to grapple with the weight of the very reality we teach withing? How many of us, myself included, would rather idolize someone who doesn’t teach with us because they seemingly have it all figured out and if we only listen to them some more we will, surely, finally be a great teacher?
It’s a lose-lose situation and an unsustainable one at that. When we assume that “those teachers,” that “those experts” have it all figured out, we only see ourselves as less than. As someone who perhaps doesn’t have ideas to share. As someone who there isn’t space for in the conversation. As someone who will never be good enough, let alone a great teacher. And this simply isn’t true. Our schools are brimming with people, and yes, kids are people, who have so much to share if we only start to realize the wisdom that surrounds us.
Because I can tell you this; as someone who has been given a lot of space, who has had labels, both positive and negative, attached to her very being; I am nothing special. And I don’t mean it as a false sense of denigration. As a way to tear myself down so that others can lay on the accolades. I am simply a teacher who chose to reflect out loud. Who chose to question her own practices because she faced the very harsh reality that if she continued on the path that she was on, she would harm children. Who screws up oftentimes privately, sometimes publicly, who is lucky enough to have people who care enough (or are angry enough) to point it out and tell me I can do better (thank you!). And so are you.
So it’s on all of us. If we don’t give space. If we don’t strike up conversations. If we don’t reach out and ask for help from the very people we work with. If we don’t share more of our mistakes as some of us are handed pedestals to stand on, then we are doing a disservice to those who come to us or guidance, who trust us with their time, who call us colleagues and mentors.
So find your worth, share your story, trust me when I say; we are all just trying to figure this out. Sometimes we do great, sometimes we don’t, but we are all in this together.
3 thoughts on “The Great Teacher Myth”
Thank you, Pernille! I’m still trying to figure it all out, and I’m retired!!! I watched the video of disrupted text and got upset. If we throw out the “canon” completely, then won’t only those in private schools who teach some of the classics to an even younger age than we do in the public sector become the more “educated” later on? We can teach those stories through graphic novels and orally as well to those who are poor readers. Even Madeleine Hunter’s first lesson step was motivation, but that was the teacher’s role, not the student’s. So let’s think of ways to motivate kids to want to read the classics (graphic novels?) or decide with our colleagues which classics they want to teach and why–what values do they want to make sure our kids leave with? When the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet film came out in the 70’s, we had a hit with R & J for kids and we tied it to West Side Story. Kids loved it!
That was the most POWERFUL, most MEANINGFUL, most INSPIRATIONAL message I have received. I had goosebumps on my arms and I sat up straighter when I finished reading it. Thank you.
Thank you for keeping it real!