By Emily Davis
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty enthusiastic and generally happy person, so I am reluctant to start off a blog post with such a Debbie-downer sentence like, “After 10 years of teaching, I left the classroom.” But I did. Yet, I didn’t leave for the typical reasons one may think. I wasn’t exhausted or “fed up.” Teaching wasn’t always easy nor was it always arduous; it was the perfect level of challenge, sprinkled with days of despair and days of great happiness. It was balanced.
It wasn’t until I left teaching that I realized how many misconceptions there were about teaching, what it meant to be a teacher, and what nonteachers actually thought being a teacher meant. When I was in the classroom and actually teaching students, I never heard anyone lavish me with saintly descriptors or go over the top in praising me for my chosen line of work.
I taught kids and was good at it, but I was not an “angel”—or anything with wings for that matter. I was me, and the words that come to mind to describe my qualities as a teacher are words like thinker, knowledgeable, or just plain creative. Because one has to get creative when staring at a class of 58 6th graders. In one day, I could tutor kids in the subjunctive tense in Spanish, coach basketball, write five letters of recommendation, teach kids to be kind to one another, call 10 parents, counsel a group of students struggling with depression, and deliver content in an engaging and relevant way to six classes of very diverse young people.
I am a teacher. An expert at my craft. A certified, licensed, experienced, award-winning, teacher leader and professional who knows how to motivate students, be inquisitive, and not always accept policies at face value. Just as we know to praise students for what they actually do, let’s take the time to look closely at what teachers are doing and give them specific praise for their professional skills—not for their perceived heroism.
The Teachers of the Year are an example of promoting excellence in our profession. As we head into Teacher Appreciation Week 2016, ASCD will provide each of the 56 State Teachers of the Year with the opportunity to elevate their voices in the Teacher Voice Project. This campaign will provide a platform to illustrate the complexities of the profession and what it means to be a teacher leader in action. We continue to define and redefine the teaching profession, and it is on all of us to start connecting words like expert, autonomy, self-efficacy, advocate, policymaker, and change agent to elevate the teaching profession . . . minus the red cape.
Emily Davis is the director of educator engagement at ASCD. She was a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow in 2013 and 2014, after which she stayed with the Department as a special assistant for teacher leadership. Previously, Davis was a classroom teacher for 10 years.