A Word or Two

This year I have repeatedly compared myself to my students, in that I feel I’ve become a student again. I know that is SUCH a cliche, but I’m taking it outside the classroom for a change. Normally, if I’ve said that, it usually meant I was learning something new. It could be new technology, new courses, AQ’s, leadership role, etc, but essentially, it meant I really was a student in some fashion.

This year, I’m not in the classroom, but am facing my own personal challenges as I attempt to grow. It has seemed that I’ve often put myself in a new situation that I can liken to the students coming into my class. I am reliving the fear, anxiety, confusion, need for help and guidance in a whole other way through travelling.

I’ve come to a point in my journey where I am now appreciating feedback. Since I am a talker, my students often received quite a lot of feedback. I tend to repeat myself and look for ways to express myself differently. I like my students to understand what they’ve done well and perhaps what could be improved upon in the future.  Early in my career, my mentors told me that at times I was too critical and needed to focus on the more important issues that needed to be addressed, but I was never told that I needed to give more feedback, just speed it along. I’ve learned to narrow my choices and match it to a student’s strengths and needs.

What I absolutely never wanted to happen was a student to give up on me. Or herself. I advocated for the process, a goal, improving based on her previous output. Now, admittedly, I couldn’t address every need, every day, but tried to have meaningful contact when necessary. Encouragement and acknowledgement of steps achieved makes a lot of difference.

Recently, I found myself in a position where I needed feedback. Having not received it, I felt disappointed. It doesn’t make me question my whole career, but it does have me questioning some contributions I have made. I don’t want to doubt the work I’ve done, but maybe I need to reevaluate it.

I think we all want to feel valued. That our work means something. I wonder if my ego has run amok and what I deemed important contributions really weren’t. Perhaps I’m being too needy and looking for appreciation for just the standard work ethic.

This makes me particularly aware of how my students need and want to feel valued. I mustn’t underestimate the work a student does. What may seem small to me, could be the result of a monumental effort on my student’s behalf. A student may be pushing herself beyond her boundaries and sometimes that extra word or acknowledgement from me can make a difference between trying even harder next time or just giving up when effort hasn’t been recognized.

While I try to sort out where I stand and find inner strength to keep moving forward, it reinforces the need for me to really make sure my students feel valued. Small human courtesies can go a long way with building trust and developing a relationship where both parties strive (and continue) to improve.

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