No one ever wants to be the worst at something, and relatively speaking no one really has to be. Most of the time, if you’re the worst golfer or singer or driver among your group of friends and acquaintances, there’s a friend group somewhere else with a much worse golfer or singer or driver. But golf is boring, singing should be done regardless of quality, and there’s always Uber. So, it’s all relative and it’s all usually not important.
But when it comes to things like, say, teaching, it’s really important to not be the worst. Being the worst at being an educator means disadvantaging groups upon groups of children, and that’s not relative. That’s detrimental.
As much as I consistently disparage everything I do, I’ve never really thought of myself as a crappy teacher. Honestly, because I get a lot of compliments on my teaching practices, I like to think I am generally among the best.
Sure, I only have two years of experience. Sure, I’ve never taken the level of high school that I’m predominantly in command of instructing. Sure, I’m stubborn and inflexible and believe I am generally among the best so when data comes back to prove that I’m not only NOT the best but am, in fact, based on this one metric the LITERAL worst… well, that stings.
But does it have to?
The best of teachers, the worst of teachers. Good teachers (and people, really, because there’s not too much of a difference between a teacher and a person) don’t give a shit about which pole they reside on while leading their students toward meaningful learning. And although I’m not sure that anyone could get back a boatload of test scores (like I did this morning) and unavoidably gather that her students did noticeably worse than the other teachers of that same subject (like I did this morning) without having to gum down at least a few bites of humble pie, I also know that a little ego check never hurt anybody.
The honest-to-goodness truth is that, although I’m good at many facets of my job, I will always have growing to do. It’s not even because I’m new; it’s because I’m a person, and people need to continually reassess who they are and how they’re carrying about their lives. This isn’t specific to teaching; this is just part of the elusive human condition.
I could easily allow myself to be bitter and sulkily wallow in my own embarrassment (and trust me, I’ve thoroughly vented to my mom already about how terrible and stupid and bad I am), but although there will surely be a handful of strong beers chugged sorrowfully in the name of my pride the only thing that would actually make me THE worst teacher – and person – in this circumstance would be to never step past the pity and seek out support for my next round in the ring.
Again, humble pie isn’t the worst meal to occasionally have to choke down – any diet should include a few servings now and then, to remind us that we’re imperfectly human. Feeling sorry for yourself is sometimes unavoidable, too, but choosing to move past the self-conflagration and step out of the sacrificial fire pit is what gives the crappy teachers (and people) the potential to become the amazing ones.