"Am I doing this right?"
When I was a new teacher, what I wanted more than anything was for someone to validate the work I was doing. Teaching kids was my life - so much so that my husband put a one year limit on how long I was allowed to talk about nothing but school!
As years passed, I tried new things. I pushed envelopes, empowered students, and generally rocked out. Still doubt lingered. "Am I doing this right?"
Eventually, I decided to pursue National Board Certification. "Surely," I thought aloud, "They're the experts on what an excellent teacher looks like. If I'm an NBCT, then I'll have external proof that I'm a master practitioner." But my heart whispered, "Please just tell me I'm really a good teacher."
I earned NBCT certification. It was exciting, and I spent waaaayyy too much money getting my certificate professionally matted and framed. But guess what? I didn't find what I was looking for. The sense of longing to be valued was still there.
Finally, I found peace in two ways. First, my dear friend Cathleen Beachboard invited me to coauthor a book with her. Talk about encouragement! Then, I joined a community of teachers, librarians, and coaches that held one another in high esteem. These folks laughed with me on good days and listened hard on days when I was madder than Alice's Hatter. They fed my need to be seen and heard, and I thought, "This is what I really want to do." I like students. They're cool and fun. But as it turns out, I love teachers.
So this year, I'm starting doctoral work at UVA full time. My end goal is showing up and standing out for teachers. Life is hard for public educators. My purpose-driven passion is to bridge the gap between what people say they believe about teachers and what they actually do.
If you're reading this, I hope you'll point me towards a teacher in your life. I'd love to tell them, "Yes! You did that just right."