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Leadership and Activism

I am Nothing Special – Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share Their Successes?

I posted this Saturday on my blog and was astounded by the level of dialogue it created.  Therefore it is time to open it up to the Coop.

Even in the staunchest of schools, teachers celebrate their students.  Whether it is through formal rewards, which I am not a fan of, or informal recognition, which is more my style.  We celebrate achievements, goals, and recognize our students for the incredible minds, people, and human beings they are.  Teacher brag about their students in the lounge, and to their families.  We are quick to share the funny things they and highlight the amazing ideas they concoct.  We blog, we film, and we sing their praises to those that will listen because we think they deserve it.
So why is it that within teaching, if a fellow teacher or a teaching team receives recognition we have a harder time celebrating it?  Why is it that we often see other’s achievements as a knockdown to our own abilities?  Why is the competition so fierce among teachers to be the one recognized that we cannot celebrate the successes we all have?

I work in a school with incredibly talented people, who have amazing successes every day.  You walk through our hallways and you will see the excitement in classrooms, you will see innovation wherever you go and teachers striving to do everything possible to reach each and every child.  I have often written about the incredible people I work with.  And I wish we celebrated it.  I wish people were recognized just as much as we recognize our students.

So administrators and fellow teachers; what do you do in your building to celebrate everyone, and not by handing out awards?  How do you recognize the achievements of all of your staff?  Where do you start your celebrations?  It is time we stand together and and decide that one person’s success is a whole school’s success and that we are only as strong as our team.  Educators should not be afraid to share the great things they do, they should be yelling them from the rooftops.

About Pernille Ripp

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


5 thoughts on “I am Nothing Special – Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share Their Successes?

  1. I think the answer is to tell a better story. We need to get the success stories out both as a better individual narrative and as a better collective narrative. We need to show that there is something better than waiting for a Superman to rescue our schools. But our story needs to be better, not because it “does more” or “looks incredible” but because it is more authentic, more humble, more meaningful and more enduring.

    Posted by John T. Spencer | September 28, 2011, 10:52 am
    • John, I couldn’t agree with you more and particularly the “humble” bit. This is not meant as a spotlight on the individual but rather than we can all share in the successes of each other. If we are too afraid to share, then how will anyone know what we are doing?

      Posted by Pernille Ripp | September 29, 2011, 11:27 am
  2. We try to end each meeting with time reserved for sparkling moments – moments of help, happiness, and/or relief that we experience and see around us at school. Some are about particular accomplishments or lessons, but most are about breakthroughs kids experience in learning and relationship-building.

    I think it’s difficult to share praise in school culture because adults hold different values. I (for one) don’t often risk sharing something that I think is extraordinary because I’m unsure of how others will judge that thing or me or any students involved. This is a habit of mine from way back in my life, and nothing specific to any school at which I’ve worked. I’m uncomfortable talking about my work/things I value face to face in small groups. Hooray for blogging

    I think it’s easier to celebrate things in any organization with a tight-knit community that shares common a common mission, a common vision, and common values. When everyone knows what to celebrate, it’s easier to recognize party time. It makes sense to me that other, more clearly defined sectors and businesses would do a better job of recognizing accomplishments. However, I like the messiness of education just fine. As a friend said not too long ago, I love to stand on quicksand.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | September 28, 2011, 2:56 pm
  3. Chad, Yes, we must have a shared vision or at least one that everyone can buy into. While some people may not want to share, we have to start realizing that we are only as strong as the people we are with. I too like the messiness of education which means there should be many varied things to share and celebrate.


    Posted by Pernille Ripp | September 29, 2011, 11:29 am
  4. I think you have a great post here. I know so many teachers, including me, who often feel unappreciated or overlooked despite the hard work they put in every day. We know how important positive reinforcement is for our kids–seems like teachers could get a little love, too!

    Posted by Tinashe Blanchet (@mrsblanchetnet) | October 14, 2011, 4:20 am

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