I am a freaking great teacher

This entry is for Daniel, who stayed after class with some other students today to make sure I understood what is working for him and the other students, as far as he can tell, and what is not. (Thank you, Daniel! You help me a lot.) We ended our conversation with Daniel saying, “I mean, you’re a good teacher . . . ”

I could feel the word “but” edging out of his mouth. I said, “I am a good teacher. I’m a freaking great teacher! Ha!”

Daniel looked like he had some serious concerns about that statement, so I clarified, “As long as I listen to students, I’m a good teacher. When I stop listening, I’m not a good teacher anymore.”

We parted ways, but I’m sure Daniel thought I had a much better opinion of myself as a teacher than I had any right to. But I don’t. I am a freaking great teacher. Here’s why.

Being a good (or great) teacher cannot be measured solely by the quality of output on a given day. We all have good days and bad days. Overall, though, the quality of my output as a teacher (in class, in my communication with students, and via curriculum) is very high. Also, I learn from my experience and apply this new knowledge immediately. Overall, in this way, I am a freaking great teacher.

Being a good (or great) teacher cannot be measured solely by the immediate response of the students. I have many pedagogical goals in mind when I design and implement curriculum (in other words, when I plan out what to teach and when I actually teach it), and most of my students have no  idea what these goals are, nor do they have the experience to judge whether I’m doing a good job of it. They may not make full use of all I am teaching and modeling for them until many years after they leave my class. They may not even remember that they learned that useful stuff from me, but they will use it anyway. I am a freaking great teacher because I think so far ahead, because I make sure I give my students things they can use now and throughout their entire lives. I teach them how to do the work to be independent learners and thinkers, not just how to get a good grade on a paper.

Being a good (or great) teacher cannot be measured solely by the activity of the teacher. Sometimes being a great teacher means letting students struggle to figure something out for themselves, or giving students the opportunity to lead and teach one another. Sometimes being a good teacher means you keep your mouth shut and let less-experienced people do the talking, because those people will learn better by talking and teaching, and the listeners won’t be hurt. I am a freaking great teacher because I encourage students to teach each other, and, in doing so, teach themselves.

Being a good (or great) teacher is not a fixed state of being; it is a practice of exploration, discovery, and development. I practice a rigorous and authentic approach to teaching and learning. I accept that I will not perform up to par on some days, but I also know that I will learn more from the days when things don’t work as I want them to than I will learn from the days when everything goes as planned. I am a freaking great teacher because I embrace and celebrate continuing growth, for myself as well as for my students.

So, Daniel. Poo on you.

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