Last week, I asked a teacher I admire if she wanted to share some of her passions with my blog readers. Her answer made me sad. She said she didn’t feel like she had done anything worth sharing this year – new grade level, new school, etc. had all left her feeling like she was less than best.
I wasn’t sure how best to respond. I mean, she’s amazing. Why doesn’t she see that? Then, a principal forwarded me an eloquent article about the virtues of being average in school. And this passage struck a nerve:
School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best.Let’s Hear It For the Average Child by Margaret Renkl
How fortunate that many of our students, once graduated, will become part of this “real life” in which they can feel valued for that in which they excel, and feel like they don’t have to excel in everything else.
(I could start a side rant about how students should feel that way every single day, but that’s a different post for a different day…)
But what happens to the teachers who live the majority of their life, from age four or five to retirement, devoid of this “real life” experience?
What happens to people who feel the pressure every single day to excel at everything?
How can teachers feel valued for what they are doing?
How can site and district leaders support teachers, not only in their professional growth, but also for the skills and passion they possess and share with students already?
How can we build an inclusive culture of camaraderie and joy (and LOVE!) so that teachers aren’t burned out with the constant demand to learn more, do more, excel more?
Because the truth of the situation is that the teacher I asked to blog IS amazing, and she excels at inspiring students to learn and question and grow every day. But if her measurement of worthiness is this unreasonable expectation of excellence in everything, then the system surely has failed her as much as it has failed the ‘average’ student.