Sticks and Stones, Inspired by #BFC530

This morning, I participated in the #BFC530 chat from the treadmill, as I (try to) do every morning.  Today’s topic,

struck me as particularly blog-worthy because I had a very strong reaction to it.

The worst piece of advice I’ve ever gotten has been, “you’re not cut out for [teaching].”  It was given to me very early in my career, and I almost took it.  Thank God I didn’t.

I came into teaching through alternative certification with a background in television production.  Almost every job I had from the age of 12-21 involved working with children, and as I approached the end of my undergrad studies, I realized that I was very interested in teaching.  Of course, it would have been foolish to change my major when I had already completed nearly all of my coursework.  Thus, alternative certification programs became really appealing.

The golden opportunity came one day when I came across a flyer for a cohort through my university.  I was selected to join this group, and within a year, my dream of having my own classroom came true.

Understandably, the first few years were a steep learning curve.  Yet, time and again, I was told that teaching was not for me.  I wasn’t “cut out to be a teacher.”  I was, “still very young and [had my] whole life ahead of [me],” to find something that I “really love doing.”

Yes, I was young, but I was also stubborn.  I knew exactly what I loved, and it was building relationships and learning with the students in front of me.  Year after year, I was constantly bombarded with less-than-positive messages about how I needed to quit.

Then one day, it finally clicked.  I started to find my way around year four, when I received the support that I had needed.  Year five, I was able to use my background in technology, and everything changed.

This morning, I struggled while trying to answer the second part of the question.  My initial reaction was that the negative advice made me work harder to prove myself, but then I thought…did it?

Not really.

What it did was the opposite.  It gave me baggage and insecurity as a teacher, that took a long time to shake.  Truth be told, some of it still lingers.

Last night, I was listening to the Edu-Allstars Podcast with Principal El, who made a great point.  He was talking about how he would never again give up on a student, and also how we should never give up on struggling teachers.

By definition, a struggle implies some form of effort.  To paraphrase Principal El, if someone is giving an effort to help students, they should be celebrated, not vilified.

A member of my PLN nailed it:

We need to be very mindful in our profession how we treat one another.  As educators, we are often persecuted by media and society.  It’s not fair to do so to one another.  Just as we are supposed to be patient and supportive with our students, we need to do the same with others in our field, especially those with good intentions, who may just need help.  After all, we are all still learning ourselves.

To answer the second part of the question, something positive did come from that bad advice.  I now understand exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end, and can better advocate for the “struggling teachers.”  If you are doing what you truly love, don’t let anyone else tell you what’s in your heart.  Keep pushing forward, and be a sponge when it comes to best practices.  To those of us in a position to help, let’s do so from a place of love.  We are judged enough already!

P.S.: The story has a happy ending. Nearly ten years have passed, and I have seen many of the people mentioned above recently.  They have been very supportive! Let’s all continue to support each other, and work as a team for the good of our students 🙂


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