Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why my disappointment is a blessing.

I am in my seventh year of teaching. Teaching is a challenge and I'm fortunate to teach United States history to middle schoolers. Not only is it my favorite subject area but also my favorite age to teach. Teachers in the United States can pursue a National Board Certification which often comes with a pay raise but more importantly, shows they are some of the most distinguished teachers in their field. I began the National Boards Certification process two school years ago and recently learned that I have not yet achieved National Board status. I never dreamed 24 hours ago that I would say that my temporary failure is a blessing. 


In the early morning hours on a cold Saturday morning, I anxiously logged in to the National Board's website to see my scores. I was nervous that I had not achieved certification but I was certain that if I had not yet made it that I was only a few points away. I had even bragged at school that if I didn't make the coveted 110 score that it would be by a narrow margin. When I logged in and saw how poorly I did, I was numb. It took me hours to even get the emotion to cry about the time I had committed to the certification process, precious hours with my family that I would never get back.  


While I stared at the computer screen my blonde hair blue eyed three-year-old boy came tiptoeing down the hallway to my bedroom. He saw the glow of the light and knew that I was awake. He asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was checking my scores for the "big test" that mommy had been working on.  When I told him I did not quite make it his reply was "so we can't get a minivan yet?" That's right kid, not yet.  


As the day progressed I told my husband that I had not yet made it. He was shocked and sympathetic. I battled with the idea that maybe I had invested too much money and should stop while we were ahead.  I grieved (and will continue to do so) about the time that I will have to invest away from my family to achieve certification and I know the road ahead will be tough but I'm glad I have this opportunity and have found some blessings amongst my disappointment. 

Being Humbled   

Most everything I have attempted in my life I have been successful at, not exceptional, but enough to achieve my goals. Grade school was relatively easy. Honors classes did not require that much additional work. SATs were a breeze, I made a perfect score on the Praxis I and did well on Praxis II. My undergraduate degree was tough but not terrible. My lessons were used as examples during my Master's program and I've always been seen as a leader in my teaching career. I had never really "struggled". This struggle makes me have all the feels for my students and that is incredibly important.

I now understand why they want to give up, I know how tough it can be to keep going when you feel like you put your all in and still didn't make it. How can I as a teacher help my struggling students that have not yet mastered a concept overcome that feeling when I struggle to empathize with them?  More than ever I feel a connection to several of my struggling students and I can share with them my struggles as we work together to achieve our goals. What an amazing opportunity to be an example of grit and hard work for both my students and my own children! 

A sense of community 

Within hours of the news of my "not yet achieved" status I had messages of encouragement from people I didn't know.  A teacher that saw my post, on a Facebook message board, messaged me and we talked for an hour about options and her own struggle with getting certified. Teaching, ironically, is a lonely job and the institution of education often tries to compare us to one another in a competition of data.  We can save the woes of comparing data from teacher to teacher and school to school for another day, but today I have never felt more connected to a group of people that are inspired to change the world. Regardless of National Board status, those that attempt to take it on should be honored for their hard work and once status is achieved we should celebrate those that have accomplished a goal!


Better Lessons 

After teaching for a few years it is easy to pull together a quick lesson with little effort. It might even be a great lesson. I, too, have put together lessons and had a surprise observation and had fantastic feedback. With my not-yet status, I will have to be more diligent about the lessons I teach to ensure that my students are getting the very best instruction, assessments, differentiation and feedback they deserve. Things I should be doing as their teacher anyway but idle hands (and minds) do not often produce amazing results. Students deserve amazing. 


Never stop learning 

I'm terrified that I will be moved to a different grade level. I know US history as well as civics and government, but I admit I'm a little weak with world history as well as geography and economics.  To achieve certification I have to retake the video component (C3) but to give myself an additional buffer I'm going to retake the content test to see if I can improve those scores. This means I need to study.  I was arrogant and did not study much the first time and scored okay. I'm excited to expand my own knowledge of social studies so that I can improve my scores. 


 Intentional with my time 

The greatest disappointment of my not yet status is the time away from my family. My oldest is three and I missed a lot of precious time with him the last two years while I spent Saturdays at school prepping and writing. My youngest is just now six months and being away from them both to work on a retake breaks my heart. My husband is also a teacher and understands the commitment I have to both my students and my profession.  I hope my own children have teachers that are as committed to their work and students as I am.  The struggle to be a parent and a teacher is tough as both roles require a great deal of commitment. I remember a grad school professor telling me once that the "more you have to do the more you will get done". I will have to be intentional with my time to make sure that none is wasted. 


Delayed gratification 


Then there is the minivan. My husband and I both drive smaller cars. Neither are in dire need of replacing, they are just getting older with a lot of miles and packing two kiddos in them makes for some frustrating and cramped adventures. We will get the minivan one day and it may or may not be before I achieve certification, but for now, we are okay. If a minivan is the only thing on our want list, then I would say that we are more than blessed. 


My sweet, supportive family! 

Wherever you are on your journey towards your goals I hope you find the hidden blessings along the way.  Take time to feel the disappointment, be happy for others who achieve their goals, make a plan and move forward. Each day is a new opportunity to be better than we were the day before. 


~Stephanie~ 

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