Earlier in the school year, I sat in the principal’s office and discussed with him how tough it was to deal with his “game face” look during observations and his criticism. He looked at me and said, “I bet you’ve never had a principal tell you what you’re doing wrong and offer constructive feedback.” Yeah, he was right. In my first 17 years of teaching, a mention of timing here, a few suggestions there, but never had I experienced being evaluated and ranked 1-4–only S or NI with never an NI bubbled–with only a little tweaking needed here or there. This year has been different, 10 standards, the bar is higher, and my teaching is ranked in each area. Oh, the horror! My principal told me at some point he would challenge me to help me become the best teacher and leader I can be, and well, he has. Below are my insights from this year, my insights of personal reconstruction as a teacher and a leader:
- Facing constructive feedback sometimes requires personal deconstruction and reconstruction; my wall must crumble before I can find a way to build myself back up.
- What seems like the unreachable brass ring on the merry-go-round may be within my reach if I build on what’s working, face up to what’s not working, let go of my fears, seek help when I need it, and push forward with determination.
- Being a big picture conceptual person, I need to take time to find a way to connect the dots in order for others (young and old alike) to understand and appreciate my big picture vision.
- Collaboration needs to be shared because the sum is greater than the parts—everybody has something to offer if encouraged and nudged.
- Doing too much for the team, even with good intentions, hurts everybody and will eventually backfire.
- We’re (students, teachers, principals, and districts) measured by growth, and that’s a fact to face as we prepare kids for what lies ahead this year and in following years. Sometimes I need to look at that reality in relation to my pedagogy, and I need to let go of some things I want in order to adapt and do what I need to do. Other times, I need to tweak a bit here and there to hold on to what is sacred to me.
- I need to slow down; most people cannot follow me when I’m chasing a zillion ideas. With time and intentionality (and sometimes with help), I can rein in my ideas and find the nuts and bolts.
- Breathe. Listen. Respond. With this, I gain the perspective of others, I take in other ideas, my voice is clearer and more balanced, and my words are more balanced with greater credence.
- Self-awareness and facing my weaknesses (while not being too hard on myself) and celebrating small successes (while building on my strengths) will help me as I strive to better myself and grow.
- Finding and becoming my best self is a choice I make each moment of each day based on my perspective. Do I harness the positive, or do I succumb to the negative? My will to be the best is a double-edged sword of both asset and enemy, yet my enemy will only conquer and control me if I let it. I can choose to make this gift my asset instead, and I can find my best self and be a lot happier as well.
While I’ve questioned myself more this year than in any other year I’ve taught, I also think I’ve grown more. And, to think, the year’s not over yet. Whew…I better go to sleep right now!