Monday, January 31, 2011

What is Teaching Excellence?

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not perfect.

I'm so happy to be one of the five teachers in the nation up for the NEA Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. I'm currently a Horace Mann Teaching Excellence winner and one of us will receive the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence at the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, held on February 11th in Washington, D.C.

Guess what? The other four Horace Mann Teaching Excellence Winners - Karen, Teresa, Kathy and Terri - are probably not perfect either. In fact, that's what's so good about excellence, anyway.

It's a goal for real people doing the messy work of education.

Perfection for me is something stilted, reserved for a Grecian urn or Pythagorean universe.

Excellence is that shining golden ring we keep striving for on this fabulous carousel of life.

We rise up and we reach. We get the ring. It's in our hands. Oops, now, we drop it. There it is again! Still we rise and reach. Excellence is a personal process, which involves striving for goals, rethinking practice and committing to life-long learning.

Perfection belongs to an idealized past. Nobody wears it well.

Teaching excellence describes the belief that we educators share in the audacious possibilities of our students. Together, we see the "messy" striving of youth before us and we too participate in this learning. We see hope in motion and in seeking new ways for us all to shine.

So when people talk about my excellence or anyone else's, that's what they mean. My students know that I won't give up on them and so far; they haven't given up on me! We’re in this together!

Excellence is an opportunity to boldly seek a better way to understand this planet and our place in it. It's a dream that we all share.

When people talk about my "excellence," they are talking about the magic that we teachers make happen in our classrooms all across this nation.

It’s a spark that goes from you to me and me to you. I see it in my colleagues’ classrooms as I walk down the hallway to go to the mail room. I watch the sparks fly when the kids help each other with a math problem in the cafeteria. I see it on the sport’s fields when coaches create that perfect harmony needed to win a game.

Excellence: go into a school nearby and you’ll see it in action. Awards like the one I’m up for are there to remind everybody to keep looking for it, right in your own communities.

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