Friday, May 07, 2010


I received the results back from a climate survey we sent home to parents today. It was a little disheartening. Even though only 44 out of 74 completed the survey, almost half of those said that as teachers our communication skills were lacking. It's funny in a way because out of 74 parents, we probably only hear from a handful of them. I'm thinking this communication thing goes both ways.

And just yesterday I reviewed the student evaluations of my own teaching at the university level, and a few of the comments made me question whether or not I should really go into teacher education. "She tells too many stories about when she was in the classroom," one complained. "She doesn't answer email as quick as she should - an obvious disregard for student needs," wrote another.

On the other hand, I also received numerous teacher appreciation gifts from my students this week, along with hand written notes of what they appreciate about me as their teacher. They were thoughtful and articulate. I cried. And to be honest, the majority of the comments on the college evaluation forms were positive saying I was a great professor and that I made the subject come alive for them.

So which is true? Which point of view matters most?

Should I only pay attention to those things that make me feel good about myself and validate my beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors? Or should I pay closer attention to those things that poke at my self-esteem and threaten to unravel my resolve like a ball of yarn being toyed with by a cat? Is there any value whatsoever in the negative feedback we receive?

Mostly I feel misunderstood, and not particularly known. Neither group of critics really know me. They don't know my motivations. They don't know me as a person. They don't know what breaks my heart or fills it with joy. Does their opinion even matter - one way or the other?

Our kids are always wrestling with these very questions. So much of who they think they are is wrapped up in what others think about them and say about them. What I've noticed, however, is that whether they admit it or  not, they place heavy importance on what we, as their parents, say about them and to them about who they are. As a teacher I can encourage Necey who feels like a failure at report card time, but it's what her mother says that really matters.

Being misunderstood can only be tolerated for so long. It can weigh you down. Surround yourself with those who encourage you on your way and not chase you with pitchforks! Elphaba couldn't help it that she was born green - and fought against other people's perceptions her whole life. Eventually, however, she decided to ignore the naysayers and do what she was born to do instead.

I encourage you not to be weighed down by what other people say - Defy Gravity!