Often when I’m just up to my eyeballs in to-do lists, I’m reminded of the catchy phrase in the Scrubs theme song that simply goes “I’m no Superman.”
When I first started chatting weekly on #langchat back in 2014, I was elated to find a community of like-minded teachers who taught the same way I did, who used the same types of teaching methods I did, who used the target language the same ways I did, and who were a wealth of information. I thought so often simultaneously “I could never be like that person!” and “How can I be more like that person?” After every #langchat or local professional development session I went to, I felt like I just needed to uproot everything I’d ever done before and start from scratch.
I’ve often said that being a teacher isn’t a 9-5 job; it’s more of a 5-9. And as much as I’ve worked hard for my students to have a learning process that was relevant to them, I always felt like I was never as good enough as others in my department who had just one more prompt, one more extension activity, one more manipulative or one more trick to help their students grasp the concept.
Who were these Super Teachers in my eyes?
Well, many were veteran teachers who had learned over the years through careful observation to add things on as they’re able, to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, and to manage their workload in order to help them still have time for themselves. And here’s the kicker: this didn’t happen overnight, either. These teachers’ techniques came after culling from other teachers over the years and observing what consistently worked well with their students.
But, come to find out, there actually is no Super Teacher. There is no magic potion one can drink one day in order to become the best possible teacher the next. Effective lessons still need to be planned. Copies still need to be made. Prompts still need to be created. Lesson targets need to be met.
Students still need to be taught by someone who is willing to do the hard work of teaching them, and students need effective feedback in order to help them grow.
So, what do I say to the teachers I now supervise who are trying to figure it all out now? I tell them “It’ll be all right.”
“But what if…””It’ll be all right.”
“I feel so…””It’ll be all right.”
“I’m just not…” “It’ll be all right.”
Now that I’m the one observing instead of teaching, my eyes are really opened to all that teachers need to be cognizant of in regards to keeping a language classroom running smoothly, though I did it for so long and it seemed almost like breathing, as I told a colleague once.
There certainly is a lot to remember in order to teach a class and keep students on track to grow in their language ability. As so many teachers are up early and up late to ensure their students have a quality learning experience, it is important to remember, though, that learning to be a better teacher takes practice, reflection, and, ultimately, growth.
And it’ll be all right because there are no Super Teachers, just teachers who love their students and who are willing to help them grow.
Paul, I LOVE that you said there are no super teachers. We cannot put ourselves or others on pedestals, because we are all doing the best we can. We hold ourselves to impossible standards and then beat ourselves up and tell ourselves that we are not enough. As you said, what is most important is that we act out of love for our students. I want to share this quote from Parker J. Palmer that at first surprised me but now continually inspires me:
“Here is a secret hidden in plain sight: good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. In every class I teach, my ability to connect with my students, and to connect them with the subject, depends less on the methods I use than on the degree to which I know and trust my selfhood—and am willing to make it available and vulnerable in the service of learning.”
From: The Heart of a Teacher Identity and Integrity in Teaching by Parker J. Palmer http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker/writings/heart-of-a-teacher
I truly enjoyed this article. No super teacher is a perfect title. I think as educators a lot of us get caught up trying to be perfect and forget that making mistake is okay and is part of the growing process. It is important to find things and people that inspire us to be exceptional educators.