Recently, a colleague asked a group of teachers this question...and at first I didn't know what to say. I work hard in the classroom. My students are growing and learning every day. I feel like I'm making a difference, yet this question dumbfounded me. Why?
Before that moment, no one had ever asked me that question. So much of teaching is about collaboration and I instantly felt guilty even thinking about what might make me "better" than my colleagues. With my pen poised above my paper, I had to make a decision. He was awaiting our answers.
My guilt soon eased into reflection. My colleague was not, in fact, asking what made me "better" than other teachers. Instead, he was asking me to reflect. It wasn't about comparing myself to others. It was about discovering my own strengths and celebrating my successes.
I found this task difficult at first. Every day I celebrate the success of my students. I cheer them on and encourage them to work hard. When they succeed, I am proud - and I tell them so. Their success in daily lessons makes me feel successful...but that's not the answer he was looking for. He was asking me to think about my actions. What is my greatest strength as a teacher?
I realized then, that many teachers are probably like me. It's easy to get caught up in the fast-paced world of lesson planning, assessments, meetings, and constantly working with students. How many of us actually take time to truly reflect? As a first year teacher, someone advised me to keep a journal to measure my growth. I promised to do so...until I actually started teaching. Like trying to hold onto a rope of sand, time slips through our fingers.
My colleague made me stop and think. He made me realize that to be effective, we must also be reflective. Only then can we truly understand our strengths and weaknesses and work towards growing into better educators and better versions of ourselves.