About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

A favorite education professor probably told you that being humble is a trait of an effective teacher. They probably read a 2011 ASCD article about “what makes for an effective teacher” and shared it with their students.

They probably also shared the notion that a great teacher continually puts others ahead of themselves. Dave Stuart, Jr. of Teaching to the Core actually offers many great suggestions about how being a humble teacher can protect our sanity.

But being humble is hurting teachers. Click To Tweet

Claire Autruong of TheMuse.com recently shared an article on “Humility: The Positive Trait that Holds Talented People Back at Work,” and I can’t help but continually make the connection to teachers’ personas while reading it. In the article, Autruong argues that being humble makes one invisible, makes one a doormat, and makes them feel stuck at their job (and she also shares some great ways to counter such feelings). Sound familiar, fellow educators?

Karen MacDonald, Maine’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, shared that she believes that “teachers are humble creatures.” And they’re wrong to be. They are relentlessly diligent workers. In class, teachers make “up to 1,500 educational decisions each day… serving the complex needs of 20+ students at a time.” Educators are carefully carving up the minutes in their day to answer emails from the night before, grading assessments, entering the grades, updating their websites.

The burdens in school are numerous. They need to prepare for the upcoming day, crafting lessons from the past or from scratch, making connections to ever-changing students’ lives and vernacular, ensuring that they’re meeting the standards that the state sets for them, while also meeting the higher standards that they set for themselves. This occurs between the 5+ classes and upwards of 200 students they teach during class, as well as the other times they personally set aside so they reteach.

Outside of school, teachers are expected to meet certain requirements that they’re qualified to teac . States expect so much professional development, and one would be hard-pressed to find a teacher who doesn’t just exceed the expectations, but does so with true valor and investment. They earn M.Ed. degrees. They attend community events to support their students. They make phone calls after school to parents and speak with their colleagues about their curriculum.

Teachers are among the hardest working individuals on the planet. Yet, since they stay so humble, you’d never know it; instead, we allow others to speak for us, perpetuating a myth of a teacher who works 7 daily hours only to kick back for the summer. The idea of the dedicated teacher is nothing more than a mirage to the non-educator.

And that’s OUR FAULT.

Why? This cultural perception is one that will end only when we decide to speak up. Here are some ways you can do that:

1 – Tout students’ accomplishments in your classroom – how can others not cheer when students do some great things in our classrooms?

2 – Praise colleagues’ success to anyone who will listen – as MacDonald stated, teachers’ breakfast is often humble pie. If you don’t sing their praises, who will ever hear them?

3 – Nominate colleagues for awards – There are so many awards to provide teachers, and even The Educator’s Room would like to honor 30 of our greatest who stand at the front of the classroom which you can do so by clicking here.

4 – Nominate yourself for awards you feel you deserve – sometimes you just need to go out on a limb and nominate yourself for an award that you feel you meet. Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” The only shots teachers often take come from snide comments posted at the end of local newspaper’s online articles

5 – Continually wave a banner of the great things you do in your classroom – it will give you clout when you want to share the negative monsters you have to slay that get in your way of accomplishing even more great things

This is not an invitation to exert pride, which Stuart properly states is the opposite of humility. A teacher’s humility is something that should be admired because humble people are always easiest to work with and be around. Just don’t let it define our entire profession.


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