Thursday, May 22, 2014

An Epiphany: I Am a Teacher!

I was a middle school teacher for 14 years before beginning my new adventure teaching in higher education. I worry I'll sound like I'm bragging, so please don't take it that way, but I was pretty good at it. I connected well with my students. Students learned in my class. They enjoyed the subjects I taught. We laughed together. I believe I made a difference in their lives.

I am a good teacher.

It took me years to come to the point where I felt I could admit this. First, it comes off sounding arrogant. But more than that, I have a tremendous and ongoing struggle with self-doubt. I know there's always more I can learn, ways I can improve, ways I can better make what I say I believe line up with what I actually do.

In some ways, my sense of self-doubt has increased since moving into higher education to teach future teachers. It's not the students--they're great, and I'm honored and blessed to work with them.

The problem is my colleagues.

Please hear me right! I am blessed to have brilliant colleagues. The problem for me is that...they are brilliant! I sometimes feel a little inadequate when I'm in conversations with them: they know history and chemistry and English and music and psychology at a level that is deeper and broader than I could hope to achieve.

Because, basically...I'm a middle school teacher.

Yes, I'm teaching in higher education now...but my skillset and background is in teaching 13-year-olds.

Teaching middle school is not exactly a glamorous job. I haven't written any books or won any awards. My name isn't headlining conference proceedings. I am not widely recognized in my field, outside of my immediate circles.

But recently I had an affirmation that led to an epiphany for me:

I am a teacher!

(And now you're saying, "Well...duh, Dave...")

Here's what I mean: I might not be a content expert in history, or chemistry, or English, or music, or psychology, or any of the other academic disciplines offered at our college. But I have developed expertise in teaching.

My content area is, in fact, education. It's what I have studied. It's what I have practiced. It is what I have dedicated my vocational work towards: becoming knowledgeable and skilled at helping others learn. My content area is curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment...the way we structure the other content areas so students can learn them and understand them, the way we convey all the other content areas, and how we evaluate what our students have learned about these content areas.

And I shouldn't be down on myself for not being an expert in these other fields...I haven't studied them or practiced them to the level of my colleagues. But I do have expertise in one area, and this is what I can offer:

I am a teacher!

That's me, doing my thing with my pre-service teachers...


  1. Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I, too, struggle with this concept coming from secondary education into higher ed. I am so glad I am not the only one with that self-doubt. Keep teaching brother!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, my friend! Good to know I'm not alone. :-)