Shelly Blake-Plock wrote a post last week entitled “I am not a great teacher.” Now, I have never met Shelly, I don’t think we have ever crossed paths online… I did see him once from a distance at a conference a few years ago. But here’s the deal…every one that I have met that knows him, has interacted with him online, or who reads his stuff online says he is a great teacher. Yes, I have met people who have not stood up to their online persona. Let’s face it, many people online are the teacher they want to be, not necessarily who they are in the classroom. But after reading Shelly’s stuff, listening to people talk about him, and knowing other people who have talked so highly of his work, I have to believe he is the real deal. In person he is, who he is online. After reading his post I decided to go way back in my drafts to find something I wrote three years ago and never posted(see below). It was a post about great teachers. I think I wrote it in a moment in which maybe I thought I might just be a great teacher…no nO NO! Can’t admit to that, right?…too conceited. We can say we know what we are talking about because we are suppose to be constant learners. We can’t brag or boost. We can share a lesson but can’t really say this lesson was awesome! Teachers have to post GREAT lessons and then write about what they learned, what they will change, and mistakes they have made. What’s up with that? Do you know any teacher who would publicly say “I’m great?” I find it hard to find someone who will simply share the best thing they have ever done–just flat out share it, no commentary setting it up as a learning experience, or how it could be better, or if what could have been better if they have just done this or that. Do we strive for perfection? And only by achieving perfection will we consider ourselves great? I know I find striving for perfection is demoralizing…it eats away at me sometimes…most of the time. I for some reason cannot consider anything I do “great.” Sometimes I can say it…but I don’t believe it. I hate that.
Here is that draft from 3 years ago:
There are three people in my building whose opinions I treasure dearly. As Ginger mentioned in a comment in a previous post, I trust each of their opinions on very different things. Each person has shaped one aspect of my teaching, and their questions and comments push me to re-consider what I do with my kids in our classroom. Basically they rock, but they all won’t take student teachers. They all say something along the lines of “I don’t think I know enough to teach someone else.” Today I finally thought maybe that is what makes the best mentors, people who are constantly searching to become better, but never admit they are. Every great teacher I know believes they are not great.
I wish more teachers shared what they did with utmost confidence. Being great isn’t an end, in many ways it can be a beginning. Let’s face it, almost everyone you and I probably know who think that they are great, probably come across as some cocky, arrogant person.
A couple years ago while presenting at a conference, I was about to share what I think is the best thing I do. I found that I spontaneously started off with “I’m sorry, but I think this next activity is just the greatest.” That has always stuck with me. Why did I apologize?
Baseball fans know that the Red Sox carried the Curse of the Bambino…I guess teachers carry the curse of Socrates with them…”As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” I wonder if and when that curse will be lifted…or is it not a curse, is it a gift?
I don’t know Shelly…I know I want to be great, but the closer I get to it, the farther away it seems. I just don’t know if I want to die believing that I know nothing. I don’t know if I want to teach believing that. I know I do…and it hurts.