A Slice of Certainty

Slice of Confidence

If you’ve found my blog you’ve likely noticed the tag line. I wrote it to resonate with you, the teacher reading this. But I also wrote it for myself. You see I wanted to remind us all that even when we don’t feel like we’re doing an amazing job, it’s likely we’re still doing great things. And we need to be certain of that fact.

When I first started teaching I lived in constant fear of being found out. I was terrified that someone was going to walk into my room and see that I really was a horrible teacher after-all. Who is this woman, they would say, and why in the world did we hire her?!

Too much uncertainty will deplete you.

It’s not that reality substantiated these fears. No, the opposite was true. My colleagues were complimentary. The principal wanted me to increase my time. My job was secure. I even received a couple of award nominations from students. Together these things seem like they would show a person she is successful. However, I just couldn’t be certain. And this uncertainty left me depleted and distracted.

Now, I’m sure some of this is just my personality (yes, I can be a bit self-critical). But I also believe this is a commonality in our profession. I say this because I’ve seen it so many times. Some in tears, unsure of their abilities as they blamed themselves for a lesson gone wrong. Others questioning if the principal really thought they were doing a good job. Usually these comments came from the most respected teachers. People who I, and others, aspired to be like.

Your quest to improve doesn’t implicate lacking.

Of course taking responsibility, and being on a quest to constantly improve, is a good thing. It’s part of being a great teacher. If we think we have arrived, it’s a sure sign that we haven’t. But it’s a fine line between questioning one’s abilities and reaching for more. The former tends to get in our way, while the latter is a propelling force.

It wasn’t that long ago when I finally realized that advancing my practice does’t have to be based in uncertainty and self-criticism. Instead, I can be both confident in my current capacity and still endeavor to be better. When this finally settled inside of me, my teaching changed. I became lighter. People actually told me I looked younger. Having fun while learning became more of a goal. Taking risks to try new things felt invigorating. And all of this rubbed off on my students.

Savor your wins and build from there.

Too often, in school, learning how to do something means there was a time we weren’t good at it. While there may be truth to this, it’s time to switch the paradigm. I no longer believe it’s productive to concentrate on what might be missing, on the things we aren’t sure about. Instead we need to focus on our/our student’s strengths. Let’s savor our wins and build from there.

As I end my first year of being in a new position, I realize that I truly did let go of my fear of being found out. Although I had many moments of being nervous about doing well, and I constantly sought to improve, I didn’t doubt myself in the same way. Instead I moved through the year with a slice of certainty. And that slice had a sweet taste indeed!

Want to know more about teaching with certainty?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some ways you’ve been uncertain, or doubted yourself, as an educator? Does that get in your way? What have you done/realized to change your perspective?

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15 thoughts on “A Slice of Certainty

    • Adreinne – WOW! Thank you for sharing this beautiful speech. I choked up reading it. Amazing that you were able to be there in person. I’m going to add it to my list or resources in the post.

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  1. SO good & just what I needed as a final detox from a school filled with doubt. You are absolutely right the paradigm shift is pivotal or you’ll forever be plagued with what ifs or seeking a perfection that does not exist.

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  2. Are we living a parallel existence? As I read your blog, your voice seemed like my voice (even if a bit more eloquently put–ha, I am self-critical, too.), and I felt reassured that there is another person out there who has questioned herself and her practice in a way that seems all too familiar. Coming out the other end of it feels so good, doesn’t it? Building on what is good, tweaking what needs improvement, and moving forward instead of doubting continuously. Thanks for sharing your authentic journey to better yourself.

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    • Kindred spirits 🙂 It’s good we all have each other to lean on right?! BTW I’ve been taking notes on your posts about finales – I’ve got something coming up and hadn’t considered the ending. So thank you!

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  3. I am so glad that I found your blog! We really do need to focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative. There are so many amazing things that we can and should focus on. Thank you for reminding us to be fearless educators and not fearful educators!

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  4. What a terrific post! I especially connected to this: “If we think we have arrived, it’s a sure sign that we haven’t. But it’s a fine line between questioning one’s abilities and reaching for more. The former tends to get in our way, while the latter is a propelling force.”

    I think what is so incredibly frustrating about teaching – or can be – is that while you can always get better, you can’t truly ever “master” it. Every time you reach a goal, reach higher, you find that you can reach even further. It’s like that whole zone of proximal development; we keep moving the goal posts as we grow and develop. It’s challenging work, but rewarding, and the trick is to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come. I admit that as inspired as I am when I see the work of other amazing teachers and everything they are doing, I also feel overwhelmed wondering if I will ever be able to “do it all.” This post was a great reminder to stay positive!

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    • Thank you Tricia. I’m so glad it resonated. Yes, thinking about doing it all can stop us dead in our tracks. It’s the old adage about how to eat an elephant – one bite at a time. And I so agree with you, taking stock of where we’ve been is so important. I think we have to share that with students who also can get overwhelmed, especially at the beginning of the year.

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  5. This sure hits home for me. Recognition, accolades, even the smallest compliment…none of these keep me from questioning myself from time to time. I educate in a different way than a teacher in a classroom, but this post touches me.

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    • Emily – I’m so glad to hear that this hit home. I think it’s important that we try to ruminate on the accolades, give them the most time. What we feed grows, right? I’d love to know how you educate.

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