Monday, April 1, 2019

Who Would You Nominate?

Recently an email came in from my principal. It's an email that's sent out every year about this time. This email is asking staff members to nominate one of our own for special mention.

Dig it.

I like this practice. I don't think it's making teaching a competition because, even though there will be one person chosen for the special recognition, that isn't really the point. There's no Big Cash Prize or anything, and I think anyone who is nominated gets told that someone on staff thought they were worthy of the honor. I will never be against teachers holding each other up for being great. Please note that this is different than someone cheerleading us to work above and beyond reason because that's what "good teachers" do.

Look at the criteria listed-

•Has the respect and admiration of their colleagues.
•Is an expert in their field who guides students of all backgrounds and abilities to achieve excellence.
•Collaborates with colleagues, students, and families to create a school culture of respect and success.
•Deliberately connects the classroom and key stakeholders to foster a strong community.
•Demonstrates leadership and innovation in and outside that embodies lifelong learning.
•Expresses themselves in an engaging, articulate and respectful way.

This is who we all want to be. We may have different personal definitions about what some of these criteria mean. For example, I imagine my take on the leadership one may not align with others. I know that my definition of "expressing [myself] in a(n)...respectful way" sometimes means "biting my tongue so hard I taste copper." And I'll be completely honest, I have no idea if I have the respect and admiration of colleagues and that's never been a primary goal of mine anyway. It's incidental. I do my thing, and if that leads to some respect then that's cool. That's why I respect the people I do. 

Last year I nominated one of my teammates for this honor, and he ended up getting it. I've said before, to him and to others, that if there's one teacher I measure myself against it's him. His ideas push me to push mine, the things he gets his class to accomplish inspires me to get more creative with mine. I think that goes both ways. I believe we should be nominating someone every year, each of us. I work with excellent teachers and I know some of them well enough that I feel confident that I could write a strong recommendation for them. But it's hard because I don't actually get to see them teach. Maybe some observations. Is that enough? That plus faith? 

Here's where I really get inside my own head though- Why shouldn't I nominate myself for this? I know the Answer- because what an ego trip, man. But go back to what I said about the criteria- "This is who we all want to be". Yes, I just quoted myself back to you, speaking of ego. 

I feel that I'm about to walk a fine line between one of those rah rah cotton candy posts you see some post and a post of substance and reflection. If I'm doing my best teaching as often as I can. If I'm accepting myself as human who isn't perfect and has no interest in being a superhero because seriously, that whole thing needs to be shot into the sun, our kids don't need a superhero, get over your savior self (Seriously, the superhero narrative is dangerous and ugly and stoppit.) If I'm breaking my tail and flexing my creativity and doing my level best then I should get this nod. Then you should get this nod because you are too. 

Isn't this a perfect self-reflection tool? If you look at this and honestly think, "Yeah, I deserve this," aren't you doing something right? Or are you full of yourself and that's why the nomination should come from the outside, because you are unable to see yourself honestly in this way? But if you're unable to see yourself honestly in this way doesn't that make reflection even more difficult, if not impossible? Shouldn't we be proud of the work we're doing? Shouldn't we all think we deserve this? But teaching is about service, so rather than boost ourselves up we elevate those around us. Not because we hope they'll do it for us, but because damn that 5th grade teacher with 39 kids is still kicking ass and doing some incredible work with those kids and she deserves to know we see her. Maybe it's a thought experiment then. "If I were to fill this out for myself, what would I write?" It's hard to get that honest distance. I know, because right about now in the school year we're all feeling a little beat down and frustrated. The kids have grown so much, but it also never feels like they've grown quite enough. Which means I could have done better by them. What's the phrase? "Perfect is the enemy of good." Celebrate the good while continuing to strive for the better then, in our teaching and ourselves. 

I think we should all be able to fill this out for ourselves. But I'm a pretty privileged white dude who's ego always loves some stroking, and who also comes from a place of  "If no one else will I will" that extends to getting things done and laughing at my own jokes, and I recognize that my take on this is very colored by my point of view and personality. Would you fill it out for yourself? Even if you didn't send it in? Do you think it would be a beneficial thought experiment or just masturbatory nonsense?  

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

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