I heard someone say recently that it is becoming harder and harder to be considered successful as a teacher. As I reflect on that statement, I wonder, what does it mean to be successful?
Yes, as a teacher that has always been under the microscope of state testing, I feel as though I cannot celebrate one success without being bombarded with a new goal. “Yeah! Great job! You made it to 70%! Now, your new goal is 80%.” With all the new responsibilities taken on by teachers, it is easy to see that our work is never done. I think that gets in the way of us seeing success around us.
But again, what is success? What are we preparing our students for? What do we consider their success? Yes, it is really nice to have great “numbers” but there are other successes to be celebrated. When a student is engaged and learning, that is success. When a student makes growth that is success.
I think about a situation in my first year of teaching. I had a student changed from another class (of the same subject) to my class in the middle of the semester. I was so angry! Why would you move a student in the middle of the semester? I was afraid of the culture changing in my classroom. I spoke to administration and they explained to me that this student was being kicked out of class every day and they thought a change might help the student with their behavior issues. “GREAT”, I thought, “that’s all I need, a student that has been a behavior problem.” As I got to know this new student and learned more about him, I realized he truly cared about his performance in class, and he, like all people wanted to be successful. I never had one behavior problem with this student. He may not have been my top performer, but he was successful.
I learned a huge lesson from this situation. We work with children, period. They deserve a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, as many as we can give them. They all want to be successful, they all want to achieve, and when we give them the chance, we succeed too.
Leslie Carikker has been teaching in Guilford County for five years and is currently a member of the Dudley High School team. She received her undergrad degree at North Carolina State University and recently completed an Masters of Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has been a biology curriculum writer in the district for four years, a position in which she is afforded the opportunity to create units, lessons, pacing and deliver professional development to science teachers in the district. While not teaching she enjoys good food, traveling, and reading science based novels!