Sitting on the bus traveling to the airport as my first experience at Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) came to a conclusion, I was struck by the words of a fellow attendee Jessica Willie, Dean of Instruction from Houston, TX. (@jrwillie2783) As Jessica and I were engaging in in-depth conversation around the ability to receive feedback as an educator, we started to talk about the immense challenge many teachers perceive this to be.
You see for years, I have been almost defensive when I receive feedback from my evaluator. Questions are heard as judgments and criteria-based evaluations are seen as static measurements of my instructional capabilities. Even though I want to be open to criticism and critique, if I am being honest, I am not. Somehow I have taken the ideology of a deficit model in instruction. If part of my teaching practice is flawed, then could it be true that who I am as a human being is also deeply flawed? This internal thought has often provided too much uncertainty and thus, challenging for me to comprehend.
When I am in this mindset, I become fixated in both areas of fight and flight. I fight back with defensive language, lack of ownership over my capabilities to make actual changes in instructional or theoretical ideas and instead I project my own insecurities onto others. I consider flight which could look like both thinking about physically exiting classroom teaching as a profession or mentally escaping the conversation (if I ignore it, it will simply go away). But what happens in this moment of fight/flight is that I can’t be in touch with my deepest of truths – that inevitably everyone is in fact imperfect. We all have goals, coaches, mentors, aspects of our personalities that we wish to change. How can I begin to see that flawed is what makes me human and in this realness, I will find my best self? How can I see this not as defeat but rather a progression into the woman I am destined to become?
On that bus, Jessica mentioned that even the most talented athletes and successful people have coaches and/or mentors to help them to become their best self. Serena Williams still has a tennis coach. Phil Mickelson has a catty alongside him giving advice as he mentally approaches his next shot. In fact, the common theme amongst highly successful people is that they are constantly refining their practice.
You see as Jessica said, “You don’t have to be bad to be better.”
What if the narrative I tell myself was different? What if I was able to proudly say that I am an amazing, effective educator. What if I could seek and welcome feedback as a means of becoming even more effective?
At the end of ECET2 today, we were asked to determine three words that spoke to our experience and encapsulated our response to “now what…”
My three words…
Disequilibrium creates opportunity
Though I may be unsure of my path forward, I know now more than ever, that listening to the feedback from others will only bring forth new opportunities of investigation from which I will move closer to becoming my best self. My “now what…” is that I will listen more with an open mind and open heart. I will be ok sitting in a moment of not knowing the answer. I will feel these moments with great awareness and allow the mental focus to drive me forward in my practice. My goal is that fight/flight will be replaced with openness and acceptance. And that as Jessica said, just because I am a good teacher, doesn’t mean that I can’t become great.