Years ago, I received an award as a young teacher from my regional professional English teaching organization. After attending the conference to receive the award, I started attending yearly, got up the courage to present a few times, and eventually became part of the board as the chair for Urban Outreach.
Last weekend, we had a board retreat in Maine (which is beautiful this time of year). We’re in the process of ironing out workshops that are directly responsive to what teachers need, particularly in relation to understanding close reading in the age of the Common Core Standards (i.e., what it is and what it isn’t, and the various ways to do it).
In preparation for that decision, various board members have been demo-ing potential workshops. Two in particular were so informative, useful and…good, just good, that I had that moment of being in a time and place with master teachers who are generous with what they know. I felt so lucky. The thing is about master teachers is that I think they rarely will acknowledge they’re masters (because teaching is so darn humbling at every moment of the day), but when you’re watching them go about their business–and even when you’re listening to the sort of meta commentary they’re giving when they’re chatting before or after they present their workshop–you learn so much.
They are also honest: they speak about their frustrations, their challenges, some occasional victories, and they humanize teaching enough to make me feel confident enough to at least try what they’ve presented in my classroom of kids, and try it with enough confidence that I think what I do might have a shot of working. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. They are there to listen, to suggest, to tweak, to encourage to try again.
Thus, this service to the profession has done a tremendous amount for my own professional growth. Since I’ve joined the board, I’ve benefitted from some true mentoring: about practice, about professionalism, about life.