“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” I don’t know if there is a single phrase out there that makes an educator’s blood boil faster than those eight words. Education is an uphill battle, and it is such a relief when we are supported by our peers, administration, as well as family and friends. Though we do not teach for praise, it feels good to know that others see how hard we work and are willing to express it. Educators understand the importance of letting our students know when we see growth, hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and perseverance. If we know it is good for students, there is no reason it should stop there. Teachers need the same acknowledgment.
Educators fight a constant internal battle. The thought that we are not worthy of being called great. This idea is a result of seeing what other educators are doing in their classrooms and feeling like if we are acknowledged for doing well, there is a feeling of being an imposter and not measuring up to the standard of excellence that we have received. Eric Barker, in his article “Why you feel like a fraud and what to do about it,” cites a study done by a psychologist, Gail Matthews, showing 70% of successful people reported experiencing imposter feelings at some point in their life. Often, educators see their success in the classroom as a result of the team they are on, the students they teach, the support of their administrator, etc. There is truth in that our team, students, and administrators may contribute to an educator’s success in the classroom, but those factors do not disqualify the dedication to excellence, perseverance, and the diligence of an educator that is giving their all.
No educational standard dictates arrival or excellence, so we tend to feel awkward when someone tells us that we are doing an “amazing” job or that we earned something that others did not. Educators tend to see the best in others as well as value what their peers are doing. No matter at what level we are performing, educators can look at another teacher and see the exceptional things that educator is doing. So to be recognized as Teacher of the Year at a district, state, or national level can feel awkward and like we are an imposter. It feels like we have won a competition in a non-competitive field. We are not trying to be better than the teacher down the hall. We are not working hard so that we can be the best teacher in the district, state, or nation; we work hard to be the best teacher for our students because our students are valued and deserve it.
Education, though, when done well, becomes a beacon to others. Educator awards are the acknowledgment of a job well done. It is not about being superior; it is an acknowledgment of the effort, the sacrifice, the drive, the value, of a job well done. In an article titled Why employee recognition is so important – and how you can start doing it, Kim Harrison, states, “recognition is the timely, informal or formal acknowledgment of a person’s or team’s behavior, effort or business result that supports the organization’s goals and values, and which has clearly been beyond normal expectations.” The key part of that definition of recognition is “beyond normal expectations.” Every educator is expected to work hard for their students, but it is so important to recognize when an educator is exceeding the normal expectations within the classroom.
The real struggle in recognition is the effect it has on those who were not recognized. Does it devalue them in some way? When educators can see the recognition as non-competitive, then there is less dissatisfaction in not winning the accolade.