Posted by Ariel Sacks on Monday, 06/02/2014
Yesterday, CTQ colleague Renee Moore tweeted a congratulations message to the 2014 Bammy Award Finalists, and tagged me in it, along with several of my favorite teacher-writers, Jose Vilson, Larry Ferlazzo, and Stephen Lazar... and that's when I saw that I, in fact, have been selected as a finalist for a Bammy Award for Middle School Educator of the year! My first response is WHOA! My second response is, what does it mean?
First, I want to unpack the "WHOA" feeling.
I started this blog in 2008, in my fourth year of teaching. It was a weird, exhillarating feeling to write about teaching, which is usually so unseen by the public, for an open, public audience. In my inaugural post, I wrote this:
When I was asked by the visionary people at TLN [a division of CTQ] to write this blog, I was excited, but frightened. I worried about how to balance the time and mental space needed for both teaching and writing. I was scared of what people might think of my ideas and of my words being misunderstood or misconstrued. Then I thought, “I don’t help anyone by declining an opportunity out of sheer nervousness.” In fact, in some way, I hurt my chances of making a difference in the lives of children if I cannot show courage in my own. I ask my students every day to be courageous in their studies and to stand up for what they believe in.
So here I am, going public with my teaching practice…
It was satisfying to take the time to put my own thoughts onto paper--I mean the screen--and be able to understand them more clearly. At first I thought for sure no one would read my blog, and I secretly found some comfort in that. And then slowly, often surprisingly, I found that some people did read my writing about teaching--people I didn't even know and would probably never know. It was affirming to be heard on issues and practices that mattered to me and to find that they mattered to others too, both within and outside the profession. The dialogue I was able to have with others via my writing constantly pushed my thinking and helped me be sharper with my students and on issues that affected conditions in my school.
At the same time, I had to get over the uncomfortable feeling of doubt in myself: "Why me?" I asked myself, in anticipation of others silently wondering this. "Do I deserve to have a voice?" As a woman in a historically female profession, I had to confront my own "imposter syndrome." I had to embrace the reality of my particular combination of circumstances and my own choices in response: I was presented an opportunity, I stepped forward to meet it (despite some fear), and then I continued to put in the work of teaching, writing and participating in the wider conversation about education, even when it got hard.
I experienced the same "imposter" feeling when people started reading my book. You really bought my book? You're really reading my book? You really liked it? The other voice in my head had to say, Yes, you worked for this. The point was to share. People read books! Accept it!
The teaching profession comes with a culture of keeping your head down, but I believe it's healthy to push against that. Teachers need to have a voice in the field of education, and should be celebrated for using it and having an impact. I'm thrilled at being selected as a finalist for this year's Bammy Awards. There are many who are deserving of it, and the group of nominees in my category included many of my favorite teachers and virtual collaborators, but I know that this does not make me less than deserving. Thank you to the Bammy Council of Peers for this honor.
So what does it mean to be recognized for the Bammy's?
The Bammy nominations go to educators who "are either world-class collaborators, made significant contributions to the field or have modeled a valued quality of a 21st century educator." While many politicians, educaton policy makers, and media sources often suggest that teachers are not qualified to lead our profession, the Bammy Awards recognize us with the opposite idea in mind. That there is a place for any of us to be formally recognized for our collaboration and contributions to the field is a statement that all of our work matters, and that people are interested in hearing from teachers. I hope the existence of these awards and the work of the many nominees will inspire more teachers to share their ideas and advocate for the structures that will help them do their best work with students.
If you are considering "going public" with your thinking...don't be shy! Take the leap. Join the CTQ Collaboratory, full of amazing educators to learn from, and resources, and support for finding your professional voice.