Be Proud of Each Other

I recently read a great post by Pernille Ripp over at her blog titled “I am Nothing Special - Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share theirSuccesses?” I left a comment as it was something I had a strong reaction to as a result of personal experience. Initially, I was not going to share my thoughts on my own blog but felt compelled to share something that has happened to me recently. This is pieces of the comment I left on Pernille’s post with some additional reflection.

Recently, I was named as one of the finalists as teacher of the year for my state. Personally, I was proud of it but also felt awkward because I did not know how my fellow teachers in my building would feel about it. I knew I would get some razzing from my friends but honestly, I would do the same in their position. I posted a link to the press release announcing my finalist status on my Facebook page where numerous people such as Pernille congratulated me. However, not one person that I work with made a comment or even clicked "like" on the post. Every single person that commented was a part of my PLN on Twitter or my own family members.

Since then, I have had numerous newspaper articles written about me and the work I have done, none of which I will be linking to in this post :). In fact, I have put all of them with my diplomas, certificates and other recognition...in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet. With the exception of a few of my close friends at work, none of the teachers that I work with on a daily basis have even said a word to me about the it nor even acknowledged it. Rather, I hear whispers of negativity and relatively rude comments about me instead. This bothers me because I didn’t ask for any of this happen. I truly was going about my work and trying to be the best teacher I could be…nothing more. Some may think I am an overachiever or that I am trying to make others look bad. Truly that is not the case as all I ever try to do is be better at what I am doing and share my experiences in hopes of helping someone else.  Plus, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that many teachers are equally and in many cases more deserving of the recognition that has recently been bestowed upon me.

Now, don’t construe this as a rant where I am mad other teachers didn’t come up and pat me on the back or bake me a cake or that I am seeking attention because that is certainly not what it is. I didn’t ask for the attention, and personally, don’t care for it. When newspapers were contacting me I felt uncomfortable with it. However, I know that with this attention I am getting my students are better for it. It is giving me an opportunity to share about the work they are doing and the profession I love. It is not my work that is being highlighted as much as that of my students and it is a testament to my students, parents, fellow teachers and entire community. I would be happy for any teacher I work with to receive any recognition or positive press.

Any time we can shine a light on the great work being done in schools it should be celebrated.
I am not sure if it is jealously or some level of insecurity that prohibits some teachers from being proud of each other. When our fellow teachers get recognition for doing something well, we are all part of that. I know that I would not be where I am at or be getting the recognition I am without the people I work with. I would name names at this point but fear some might be embarrassed for being listed as we don’t go into this profession to be called out and recognized.

However, I will thank the teacher with the fish tank and "living the dream" who taught me the key to teaching effectively is all about relationship building and who models it for me every single day. I will thank the Language Arts teacher in the room over that took me under his wing and truly taught me how to be a teacher and has been a true friend to me every day. I will thank the 7th grade teacher who shows me every day how love and compassion are the cornerstones of every classroom and trumps all content. I would also thank those teachers that doubt me and my work because they inspire me to work harder and be better every day. Each one of these people and everyone else in my school has contributed to the teacher I am today regardless of if they know that or not.

Anytime positive attention is given to a teacher it benefits the entire school community because it brings that positive attention to a profession that is often short on it. We need to help each other be proud of ourselves and to be even more proud of each other. I am not saying I am a fan of awards or gold stars, but we need to lift each other up and create a culture within our schools that promotes and fosters celebration and pride in each other. 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems that as educators, we are afraid of one another's success; yet, we are in a profession that is centered on helping students achieve success. Most other professions post their diplomas on their office walls; however, I have never seen a classroom wall filled with the multitude of diplomas a teacher must achieve to be certified to teach in a classroom.

We need to change this thinking and give our profession the recognition it deserves. Teaching kids to become life long learners is something to be proud of, and I love to learn from my colleagues about the variety of ways they are successful every day. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what so many of us feel in our hearts.

Kelly Faulkner said...

i am so sorry to hear that your colleagues have not been very collegial. it's sad that instead of celebrating that your school has been noticed for the good things going on there, they choose to simmer with resentment because they doubt themselves. and that's exactly why it's important to share what we do! keep up the good work. you are inspiring the rest of us.

Oldschoolteacher said...

I know exactly how you feel, the teachers I work with are the same way. But you know what? I'm there for my students! When NEA featured me in an article in NEA today last year, maybe two teachers said something to me. A teacher, new to the school, bought in the magazine, and insisted my principal announce it at a staff meeting!I think it hurt them to clap. We should support each other at all times, this is a difficult profession we are in! Congrats to you!

Becky Bair said...

What a great post. I know this feeling so well.

I had the opportunity to be a guest writer and was so excited when my blog was posted. While I shared it with my PLN online, I didn't share it with anybody at my school. The reason I didn't is because of what you write about here - the jealousy, the comments, the cold-shoulders. I'm not doing what I'm doing to make others look bad, and I don't understand where this perception comes from.

One person I did share with was my assistant superintendent because she has been a wonderful mentor to me during my journey these past few years. She stopped in to see me during one of our opening inservice days, and the president of our school board was with her. Immediately she told him about my post and asked me to share it with him, and I was TERRIFIED. I didn't want this to get me a ton of attention, although positive changes in classrooms SHOULD get lots of attention.

Even though positive attention is needed in education, perhaps the reason we don't toot our own horns is because that's not why we all do this whole teaching thing. Most of us didn't choose to be teachers because we wanted to be the center of attention, we chose education because we wanted to make a difference for kids. I wonder if we'd all accept the same attention for the good works of our students instead of our own good works?

Positive attention, whether focused on us or focused on our students, can only help get education the recognition it deserves.

Sra. Spanglish said...

My school--of 8 teachers--refused to participate in TOY for years. The theory was that we were all of that caliber if we got to work there. However, our DS urged us to do it, if only for the sake of getting our school (public, but requiring applications, actually knowing about our school and CHOOSING it) name out there. Choosing one of the founding teachers last year was easy, "right," even though she didn't win. I am not sure how the choice will be made this year without hurting. I do know we would all rejoice if any of us were able to go further, though, and rejoice every single chance we got!

Cybrary Man - Jerry Blumengarten said...

Josh, we here on Twitter are extremely proud of you and all your wonderful accomplishments. #youdefinitelymatter You should be recognized for all that you do.

It is unfortunate that many teachers are jealous of one another.

I had very similar experiences when I taught.

Just keep doing what you are and don't worry about what others think.

Keep sharing with your good Twitter friends. We are proud of you!

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

Thanks for everyone who has commented and shared this point. I try to make a point of not sharing posts that are overly personal but this one just had to be shared. Please don't think I am searching for pats on the back or praise, because that was not my intention. Those of you have have done so, thank you so much.

The most frustrating thing about this type of stuff is that I would be the first one to send flowers, drop a card, or buy a beer for anyone that was in a similar position. I know that this particular recognition will fade into the past and I will still be the same teacher regardless of it. If anything, I will be better because I will try to live up to the expectation of so many as well as prove doubters wrong.

I do work with some incredibly good people and I am sure it is nothing personal, or at least I hope not. :) It is just our profession that often does not celebrate one another enough. This is not to saw we need more awards and recognition on a grand scale, because we don't. However, we do need to lift each other up more as we all become better as a result of it.

Jason Leslie said...

Josh,

Congrats on your recognition, though, as you have indicated, the accolades are not why you are in this business. Your story brings to mind many of the points so many in the blog world are writing about when looking at school Awards ceremonies.

Learning and teaching are not competitions. As indicated in many posts by Chris Wejr and others, these recognitions create winners and losers, and though you did not nominate yourself for the award, it may make those who are not celebrated feel snubbed. Perhaps that is why you feel some backlash from a few staff members.

When comparing the reaction you have experienced to what students face following winning a "Top Student" or "Top Athlete" award, I would imagine they feel even more ostracized or jealousy from peers.

I am sure you are a worthy nominee, and agree that we should do more to celebrate the great work being done in education. I worry, however, about the effects competition has on people (even though I have been active in competitive sports throughout my life). Environments like education may not be the right place for competition.

I am sure things will blow over soon, and hopefully the work you are doing that is resulting in the nomination spreads to others on your staff. We do need to be proud of each other and the good work we are doing.

Good luck.

Jason

Sarah Allred said...

Thank for for brining to light a sad but true issue among educators! I admire your desire to address the issue. It's sad that as teachers we aren't more eager to applaud our colleagues achievements and successes!

KTVee said...

You have summed up here what I have been trying to say for weeks. I just wish the feeling of competition wasn't present in education. The idea that we are all trying to "outdo" each other gets us nowhere. We need to drop our egos at the door and get to the heart of why we are here: for our students. Thank you for putting this into words. Your point about not one colleague clicking "like" on Facebook hit home. To really know someone whose heart is teaching is to know that they are not seeking to outdo a colleague, to win awards and boast about them, or to make each other look bad. I just wish I knew how to make this better. I am afraid that many teachers are so caught up in the competitive aspect that it prevents them from being okay with true reflection and with admitting that they have areas they need to work on. I have a feeling that if you ask most who've won an award or received recognition what they could improve upon, they'd have a long list. Could the same be said for those who are busy pointing fingers and holding grudges? I'm not sure. It's all about where we put our focus. Thank you for a great post that helps me keep my focus in the right place, everyday.

Elizabeth Francois said...

I have felt the same as you for quite some time. I have actually been told that I will probably never get public recognition because my colleagues would feel too threatened by me. It really hurt me.

Your post made me think, though. Maybe educators get jealous because there is so little praise going around. Think about it; when is the last time something good about teachers has been shared in the media? How many schools take time to celebrate the good that goes on in EVERY classroom, not just the favored ones?

Teachers work so hard to do what they feel is best for their students. I think that sometimes it gets overlooked.

Congratulations on your successes. You have worked so hard to get to where you are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your blog.

katie.regan said...

My colleagues have treated me much the same. I have been the innovator at our district in the way of technology and using it with kids. I have had a few awards, nothing big. Why are they so scared? My pln on twitter is the only place I can go where there are others like me who will pat me on the back as well. I'm there with you man.

Julie LaChance said...

Josh,
Keep that head high. I know how you feel. High levels of recognition cause for negativity, probably more than, positivity. I have that drawer you speak of as well, but I also have a couple things up on the wall. You're not alone and yes, this needs to change. It is important for us as professionals to share our accomplishments, be proud of them and to give a pat on the back to those that have achieved something in their lives.

Janet | expateducator.com said...

I've shared my education blog with only one other colleague. I was happy to blog to strangers in cyberspace, but I was afraid I'd come across as a "know-it-all" to my colleagues.

I wish we didn't have to be afraid. I like to think some of the fear-of-colleagues-reading-blog was irrational. A few colleagues have found it and have made positive comments (yeah!). I don't know how many have noticed the blog online and intentionally _not_ said anything.

Janet | expateducator.com

@educatoral said...

It sure is sad that when one educator does well others think that makes them look bad. How idiotic, huh? You make us look good, you inspire us, and you give us ideas. Keep up the great work because the world need to see what great educators do.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is that many of our colleagues bolster the public's perception with there actions. You, Josh, don't. Continue the good work! Model what it's like to belong to a profession you love. Your lesson will rub off.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are a funny breed. Griping and complaining when treated as second-class citizens among the other professions. Yet when one is recognized and lifted up, we can tend to shun, or tag them for being a "glory hound". Unfortunately Josh, as sad as your blog may be, I have found it to be true.
I have been in the profession for a long time, and as I listen to all the ideas regarding educational reform the ones that frighten me the most are the theories around performance or merit based pay. The experiences you have described are exactly why it is set to up to fail. Education depends on collaboration, and that will be hindered the instant one teacher is elevated over another. When income depends on it, openness to share successful lessons will be squelched.
Josh, I apologize that our staff has not let you know how proud we are of you, nor thanked you for bringing the positive attention to our school, and our students. I already believe you to be the teacher of the year, regardless of the outcome. Keep doing what you do best, you are an inspiration.

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching at my school for the past 3 years (9th year of teaching overall). The other teachers in my department ignore me everyday, and only talk to each other during staff meetings (not me). I've tried talking to them, but they give me the cold shoulder. It is the most isolating feeling in the world. Sometimes I go to school and the only adult that talks to me is one of the paraprofessionals. Other students have told me that they have told these teachers to teach like I do, which I'm sure has upset them. I know they have talked about me negatively behind my back, and have told others that I don't know my content area, and all that I do is have the students play games. All that I do is try to do my best. I've even considered looking for a different job. I don't think I can take 20 more years of being ignored/talked about in a negative light. If anyone else has been in a similar situation, I am open to advice.

Janice said...

This post summarizes the way teachers act perfectly. They're jealous, gossipy and competitive. It's so sad that you couldn't enjoy the recognition you were given. Yes each and every teacher I know does an amazing job, but I'm so overwhelmed by the gossip around me that it makes it hard for me to enjoy my job.

What creates this competitive and judgmental atmosphere? Have any of you seen a good principal put a stop to it? I'd love to secretly intervene in my school if anyone has seen something work in the past.