On a Tuesday in April last year, I meandered into Ms. V’s class, just to hang out. She called on volunteers and non-volunteers, encouraged group work, spoke in a fair, respectful tone, and was generally an excellent teacher for the entire 53 minutes.
Later, when we discussed it, she mentioned, “Ugh. I’m sorry you had to see that; it was not a good day.”
When I countered with, “That was better than most of my great days when I was a classroom teacher,” she dismissed my comment.
Then this week, I asked if she’d help me talk through some education ideas. Our chat went so well that I asked if she’d be willing to present on the idea at a local conference.
She gasped. “I’d be honored. I might cry right now.”
In the moment, I botched my response, so here’s what I should have said:
Ms. V, I’m so excited to share these education ideas with other people, and I know that if both of us co-create this idea, then it will be even better than me doing it alone. You’ve made passing remarks to me being a “math celebrity” or whatever, but you have just as many great ideas to share as I do, and probably more.
My ideas aren’t more valuable than yours, just because there’s a book with my name on it. Ideas gain value when they’re affirmed by other people, and I want to amplify your ideas so they can be affirmed, shared, and valued.
Further, the core of you and I is remarkably similar. We both value students’ whole selves and care deeply for the pre-adults in our care. We both value collaboration and sharing and get frustrated when our peers give anything less than their best. We both try to become a little bit better each day, even if it means more work.
You and I aren’t different. We’re the same.
My teammate John has the below tweet and this blog post to extend the idea.
New teachers, please do not be fooled.
Behind that “polished” educator is a constantly-questioning, often self-doubting, always-improving person who knows there is a lifetime of room to grow.
— John Stevens (@Jstevens009) December 13, 2017
~Matt “Unpolished” Vaudrey
UPDATE: Thankfully, she agreed to work with me, and we’re already chewing through some ideas on making math class a more patient place for problem-solving. Stay tuned.