As we enter the last week or two of the longest and the hardest term of the year, and especially as we enter this time of celebration, I’ve decided that I need to give myself some credit. In any occupation, in any hobby, in any skill, it is extremely easy to forget to give yourself the praise that you deserve. This occurs twice as much when it comes to teaching. When we fill our brains with observation dates, marking workloads, never-ending to-do lists, lesson planning, it’s all too easy to push something else out to make room. Often-times, the first thing to go is the time we must take to pat ourselves on the back.
Coming in to my fourth ‘end of the first term’ working in schools, and my first as a qualified teacher, there’s an increasing need for me to constantly remind myself that what I do is important, and that in the wider scheme of things, that I’m actually pretty good at it! There’s a trap that can be fallen in to, in which you look around as an NQT and see nothing but people more experienced than you, or as it’s so easily – and wrongly – translated as, people ‘better’ than you. But ask any of those ‘better’ teachers, and understand that every one of them still has that exact same mind-set, and especially did so at the very start of their teaching journey.
If I were to reflect on my own teaching journey so far, as short as it may be (more of a walk down the shops than a trans-Atlantic adventure), then I can already find countless places in which issues that I had in September have become significantly more manageable. I can look at classes I struggled to teach at all two months ago, and pin-point hundreds of tiny changes that I have made to improve my own ability to stand at the front of that classroom. But praise mustn’t only be directed towards others – or to yourself for that matter – for achieving great successes in what you do. I would much rather give myself some credit for the effort that I put in to even attempt that success.
Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture reveals so much more than we tend to understand while we stand in the midst of it. Even worrying about whether or not you’re an effective teacher in itself is proof that you’re an effective teacher. The simple act of caring about the progress of your students should come packaged with praise. However for most of us we don’t take the time for ourselves to realise that. Most teachers reading this can look around them and see a thank-you note from a student proudly blu-tac’d to the wall, or more likely at this time of year, you’ll have a smattering of Christmas cards from students who, sitting down with their cards and their pen, decided that your impact on them was worth noting. Without noticing, no matter how secure you are about your own practice, you absolutely are having an effect on those around you. So give yourself some credit, and pat yourself on the back for your hard work.