448. When Teachers Succeed

Teachers, like many other kinds of people, sometimes accomplish what they try to accomplish. They succeed. And also like many other kinds of people, they are often reticent to admit to themselves or anyone else that they have succeeded. Some think it would be arrogant to claim success. Some think it would be bad luck. Some aren’t at all aware of their own success, and some are too busy thinking about what they want to accomplish next.
But success does happen. Sometimes a child who has had trouble understanding something finally gets it. Or two children who have been driving each other crazy figure out how to peacefully coexist, or even become friends. Those moments or processes may be causes for celebration, or at least good feelings, but teachers are often slow to believe that these miracles have happened, and teachers are even slower to take credit for the roles they’ve played.
In a way, it’s wise to temper optimism with caution. What looks, at first glance, like a major breakthrough may turn out to be painfully temporary. Or it could be illusion, born of hope; we want progress so much that we see it before it’s there. I, myself, have always been quite prone to such illusions, and I’m slowly learning to temper my own optimism.
But many teachers (and other people) take caution to an extreme. After spending years taking courses, reading, doing research, writing papers, and teaching, teachers do develop expertise. But I suspect that some people in some other lines of work have more of a tendency to grow to believe that they are good at what they do. Sometimes, their expertise is even officially recognized.
That kind of confidence and that kind of recognition are less common among teachers. When a teacher does a good group lesson, or helps one child master something difficult, there’s a tendency to give most or all of the credit to other people. And other people do deserve credit; it’s impossible to teach without the involvement of at least one other person (the learner).
But I hope teachers can learn to take more credit for the good work they do. True, success is more likely when learners work to learn. Support from the people at home is nice, too. Colleagues and former teachers deserve some credit. But teachers who succeed deserve to take their share of credit, go home feeling good about their successes, and maybe even have some kind of treat to celebrate.

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