Over the past few weeks, I have been stopped by a teacher who, for a lack of better word, struggles. I will be clear, she never struggled in the way that I questioned whether she should teach - she has the heart of a teacher. She struggled in the way many teachers do. She questions her worth, whether she is making a difference, and whether or not she should keep teaching. I am not surprised we have had the recent conversations we have had. Today was our latest conversation.
Today, I was busy. I had meetings all morning, was in the building for just a short while, then had to leave again early. My time in my office and completing my tasks was my top priority. Then, she walked in. She did that, “Hey, do you have a minute?” thing that everyone answers first in their heads, filters it, then replies. I of course said, “No, I am really busy, but come on in.” I struggle sometimes being “on-demand.”
We walk into my office and take a seat. I am at my desk, straightening things up. I am half heartedly paying attention. Then, she says it. “Thank you.”
She had my attention.
This teacher began stating how this is one of her best years. That she is taking risks and doing things she never would have done in the classroom. She talked about how she is making deeper relationships with students and finding they are rising to her higher expectations. She is collaborating with her peers in PLC and taking their ideas and trying them after tweaking them to her style. She isn’t afraid to fail.
At that moment, I was fully re-engaged. My management hat was off and my instructional leader hat was on full display. She came into my office, took a risk, and won my attention.
This teacher reminded me today of a few things:
This teacher is every teacher - every school professional. We question our worth, our value daily. These teachers have the efficacy to get the job done and done well. Sometimes they (we) lack the confidence because we are scared, unsure, or tired. I personally have spent a lot of time this afternoon reflecting on this teacher’s journey by putting the pieces together and trying to read the map that lead her from Point A to Point B. There is no map, just trust and awareness that good teaching and learning has a level of risk.
Ryan Dumkrieger is the principal of Sioux City North High School.