Well, the winner wasn't me! I got my rejection letter in the mail. "Dear Mr. Dicus, Thank you for letting us observe your classroom and meeting with you. You're nomination for this award is a huge accomplishment. Unfortunately, ……" (I had been nominated to be an exemplary teacher here in Arizona.) After I got that letter, I had many different emotions. I was nominated by my principal. Because of her paperwork, I was named a semi-finalist. A few weeks later, the judges observed a math lesson in my room for one hour and had a 15 minute interview with them as well. A couple of weeks later, I read that would not move onto the finalist round. First thought that came through my head, "I looked good enough on paper to be nominated! But you watched me teach and met with me and then you decided no!" Ouch. That night, I felt like a total failure. I felt like I let my principal down for nominating me. I felt like my students and parents were going to be disappointed that their teacher was not worthy. And on and on.
I came home from work that day and ate a pint of Haagen Daz and mourned my loss. After a few hours, I dusted myself and decided to let all of my friends know via a facebook status. Within 30 minutes, I had numerous friends message and call me. One friend wrote that I should consider it an honor to be nominated so young in my career. (I have been teaching for 7 years.) I took this little bit and went to bed. When I woke up, I had a whole new attitude about this process.
Every teacher that is worth their salt knows what good teaching is. My fellow blogger, Eve Rifkin, wrote a blog about it earlier this week. http://www.storiesfromschoolaz.org/2010/11/thosewhocan.html
However, I wonder how we can honor that good teaching? There are many amazing teachers that have gone their whole career without being recognized. The award I was nominated carried a contract which stated that I would mentor student teachers for the next three years. Another teacher at my site was nominated for this award last year. She is probably one of the best mentor teachers I have seen in my career. She lost last year. If she isn't qualified enough to mentor teachers, than who is? Hopefully next week, I will find my results for my National Board Portfolio. Will that score prove I'm a good teacher?
I came to the conclusion that no medal, or score, or money award will validate me as a teacher. What will validate me is the success of my students. Their growth and love of learning will show to me that I have done my job well.
I reminded myself of one of my past students named Abraham. Abraham was a very intelligent boy but very quiet and shy. He came from a very traditional Hispanic family. They were very respectful of all authority figures and appreciative of all that you did for them. At the beginning of the year, he was wearing a pair of green Converse tennis shoes. I told him that I liked his shoes. The months wore on and the shoes were getting old and torn up. I assumed that it was a money issue. His mom came in for a conference in the middle of the year. Since she only spoke Spanish, I scheduled translator. During the meeting, I could tell that she was getting very emotional. The translator told me that he had hated first grade and fought about going to school. Now, he won't stay home when he's sick. His mom had bought him a new pair of shoes but he refused to wear them because I liked his old pair. The mom also shared how Abraham would work in front of the mirror in the morning to make his hair look like mine. It was at this point that I realized the huge impact I have on this child's life! I teared up a bit as I learned how much this boy looked up to me! The mom thanked me for making such a difference in his life and teaching him to enjoy school.
To this day, this is still my most successful moment! How do you as a teacher become aware of your success?