Today's blog post comes from preservice teacher Samantha Jessup. While originally posted in November, we at KATE Blog felt that the sentiments were worth sharing as we gear toward our end-of-year reflections.
Throughout this semester I have really come to appreciate the quality of the education program I am a part of through my university. Transitioning to thinking of myself as a student teacher, to an intern, to eventually becoming a teacher has been honestly traumatizing at times. I have struggled with having confidence in myself and my own abilities no matter how hard I have worked or how well I have prepared. In this it seems however, I am not alone. I have found many of my classmates sharing the same sentiment, and I think it is time we all took a look at ourselves and how far we have come.
One year ago, I would never have thought myself ready to start building a unit plan. One year ago, Smagorinsky's chapters on building meaningful unit plans, introductory activities, and designing "good individual lessons that are related to the unit's goals" (p. 184) would have seemed overwhelming to me. Randy Bomer's thoughts on teaching digital literacy, wouldn't have resonated with me the way it does not after witnessing my students' struggle to utilize the technologies accessible to them. Through learning and experience I, no we, have grown immensely. There has been another great teacher though, that we have often overlooked, or hidden away in the shadowed corners of our classrooms. We fear it and avoid it, fighting tooth and nail at times to keep it at bay.
Early this semester I made a trip to the bookstore, eager to make good on a clearance sale I had marked in my calendar months ago. Browsing the young adult literature section, I happened upon a pedagogical textbook entitled “Teacher Evaluation: To Enhance Professional Practice”. I was intrigued. I added the slim paperback book to my stack, and immediately tucked it away in my bookcase as soon as I made it home, never to be seen again, until earlier this week when I began working on my self-evaluation assignment for my lesson plan. I found my thoughts drifting back to the ominous book sitting loudly on my bookshelf and I couldn’t help a peek. What I found resonated with me. In the very first chapter I found that the professional and published professional practitioners that I was reading, addressed the fears I had over my own personal failures and the atmosphere that had brought them about, “Teachers are unlikely to be honest about any difficulties they may be experiencing if they fear that ‘problems’ will be described on the final evaluation document as ‘deficiencies’. Such an atmosphere is not a safe one for taking risks; the culture surrounding evaluation is not one of professional inquiry” (pg. 6). Now, this book was published in 2000, but I have found many of the same thoughts lingering in our school systems and our professional teaching programs.
Let’s just say it. Failure.
We as teachers, are many times terrified of failure, however I have come to realize that failure, as terribly often as it seems to happen, has been my greatest instructor and my greatest companion on this long journey to becoming a professional practitioner in the teaching arts. Often times as teachers, we are even required to fail in order to more fully understand our classrooms and improve upon our instructional practices. It’s time we stopped hiding our failures in the corner, and started sharing what we have learned from them with our colleagues and classmates. I for one am no exception as I have experiences some of the most painful failures in keeping up with the demands of life, work, and school, and have been a detriment in the past to both my colleagues and myself. This failure, thought I have learned much from it, is something I continue to struggle with even to this very day, but admitting that failure was the first step on a long road to overcoming it. Rather than criticize each other for it, we need to collectively gain from these experiences, making the most we can of these unpleasant events. I have come to think of teachers ironically as the “greatest” failures. Not because we fail greatly, but because we rise greatly.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy