Today’s blog challenge prompt:

Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

Now, I’m a pretty self-promoting individual. If I think that something I did was great or something my friend, my husband, or my students did was great, I’m going to be posting about it somewhere. I’m a sharer.

This is a difficult prompt.

Perhaps to write about my biggest accomplishment in teaching, I need to recognize it first.

When I first read this prompt, I defaulted to thinking about the projects that kept me up late at night planning. I thought about the field trips that students wrote made such a difference in their view of the world. I thought about my leadership work with students and teachers that has won me awards or pats on the back. But no…the prompt says that no one knows about. Darn it.

Part of this reflecting teaching process is digging deeper…and that’s what I need to do. I need to realize that my biggest accomplishment could actually be something that I rarely discuss. It could be something I don’t pay attention to or devote enough time to…

What if it’s the beautiful relationships that I’ve been honored to have with students…almost despite myself?

I remember my first year of teaching, and the freshman student who turned an upside-down, empty, margarine container and masking tape into the perfect carrier for the singular cupcake she delivered to me at school. Even when she was no longer in my class reading A Tale of Two Cities and taking grammar quizzes, we had Friday morning coffee dates for years after that. She’s a college senior, but her mom still stops by my room on parent night to give a quick hug and ask: “No baby yet?”

I’m thinking of the student who called me “Lady Crowley” from freshman year on, who tried to teach me to juggle, and who still gives me a hard time because I haven’t yet made it to a showing of his yearly summer play. He’s a senior this year and has taught me as much as I have taught him. We are nerds together after school talking about current events or his most recent poem.

I’m remembering my fourth year of teaching. I reached out to a student by taking her to a local amusement park for an evening date because I sensed she really needed another adult to care about her that year. She was anxious, shy, and would cry frequently in my room over lunch. I worried about her home situation and her split parents. I wanted so desperately for her to know how beautiful she was and how confident she should be in her talents and abilities. In her junior year she wanted me to sign a petition for her beloved art school to be recognized as a charter. In her senior year, she would stop by my room to update me on her college prospects. I loved watching her blossom with confidence and grasp the opportunities that came her way.

I’m the type of teacher that tends to focus on CURRICULUM, and TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION, and THE BEST LESSON EVER! These things truly do excite me about the learning process. But I know it wasn’t any of those things that made a lasting impression on these handful of students who came back after the final exam. They came back because I saw them, appreciated them, was amused by them, and opened myself up to them. For whatever reason, they saw me, appreciated me, was amused by me, and then opened themselves up to me.

And because it’s so rare, and because it’s so beautiful, and because it’s so important, these relationships are my most important accomplishment of teaching…and it’s one I don’t often talk about. But I should. And I’m glad that I did.

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