I have a tendency to spend a whole lot of my time thinking I suck.
It's not that I'm not confident in myself or that I have poor self-esteem; it's just that I always try to be realistic. And very often, I see how very far I have to go. So throughout my life, when it turns out I'm good at something, I'm genuinely surprised.
Besides, even if I am good, there are lots of people who are better. And there's always lots of room for improvement.
Teaching falls into that category. Teaching is one of those professions for which the measure of proficiency is difficult to gauge. What really makes an effective teacher?
I am extremely fortunate to work with some truly amazing teachers, and most of the time I feel like I am definitely the weakest link in their very strong chain. I wouldn't tell you I'm a bad teacher... but I have a hard time saying I'm a good one, either. Compared to the teachers I had growing up, who so inspired and amazed me?
Yeah... I can't hold a candle.
Which leads me to my story.
Today, our staff sat down to look at data from our state's assessment. The data was broken down by the percent of students who showed growth from one year to the next. We looked at the school's average (about 30%), and were informed that we would be looking at a document that broke this data down by all the teachers in the district - by name - and by class period.
In other words, I teach 4 language arts classes, so each class was included individually in the data compared against all the other individual classes by every other language arts teacher in the district.
The lowest growth was at the top, the highest on the bottom. As the document was opening, I had to shut my eyes. I knew I was going to be on the low end, so I just said a quick little prayer that I wasn't the lowest. I'm still a relatively new teacher, I reasoned, and I already know I have a lot of growing to do. All I could do was hope I wasn't too far off the average.
I opened my eyes and somehow I wasn't the first name on the list. I sighed, relieved, and knew that whatever came next would be okay.
But my name wasn't second. Or third.
They continued scrolling down. And kept scrolling so long I had honestly concluded that my data must have been left out. I literally had my hand halfway raised to alert someone to this mistake.
And then... there was my name. At the very bottom of the list.
Three out of my four classes showed the highest percentage of growth in the entire school, and the fourth was very close behind. Where the school average was about 30%, my classes' scores were in the high 60th percentile.
Better than that? My scores were some of the highest growth in the entire school district!!!!
Better than that? This was consistent for both reading, and writing!!!
I was stunned. So stunned I literally cried. Not in a big, overly-dramatic way, but because I'm just so grateful that this is my talent. That I not only get to do what I love to do, but by some miracle, I'm good at it too. That I get to work with such incredible people, who make me better and push me to the next level. That is a rare and wonderful gift.
It was overwhelming to see the proof - in numbers, glaring me right in the face - that I don't suck. That maybe, in fact, on a few rare occasions, I'm just a little bit awesome.
In no way does it mean I get to hang up my hat and call it a day. All that growing I think I have to do? Yeah... I still have to do it.
But in a profession where compliments are tough to come by, and the yardstick for measuring "good" teaching is all but invisible, it's also worth celebrating when there is something to celebrate. And this, my friends? This is definitely worth celebrating!
(And let's not go into the irony of the fact that there's an ooopsy on this poster!)