Years ago I attended a panel discussion comprised of local principals and administrators. We had the opportunity to ask them about their jobs, challenges, and things such as how to edit our resumes to be perfect for when a principal might read it over. A student raised their hand and asked the question "How can we separate ourselves from other teachers interviewing?"
An administrator began their answer with a typical canned response: "tutor students, get as much experience in the classroom before real teaching as possibly can..."
The second half of his response has stuck with me to this day: "...and please, when we ask why you're applying for this job, don't just say you like working with kids."
My first instinct was to be surprised, but he was quick to back up his statement:
"Every teacher that is interviewing likes kids. That's why we are all here -- because we love working with students. So you have to go beyond just that point alone."
I never thought I'd find myself reflecting years later on that statement. But a conversation I had with another teacher brought me back to that moment during the panel. In talking with a mentor about their time working with a wide-ranging set of teachers, both in years of service and personalities, they mentioned to me how necessary it is for all teachers to "have deep belief in students and their ability to succeed."
This struck such a massive chord for me. It seems obvious, right? Believe that your students can learn and succeed. But truly how often do we have a firm sense of deep-rooted belief guiding every single interaction with our students?
I feel that every teacher can discover this belief that goes beyond just enjoying their work with students. This discovery comes from the most difficult, grueling, and gut-wrenching days that push you to your farthest limits; the days where you have no answers for a student and their behavior, the days where even you are not at your best and end up treating a student unkindly or unfairly. That is where deep belief in students is discovered and tested.
We must remain steadfast, see students at their best and worst (and sometimes ourselves), and continue forward with the deep belief that all students can succeed.
Its wonderful to have fun with students, make TikToks with them, and share experiences with students at their peak levels of happiness.
Its when students are not at their best that your deep belief in their success becomes vital. Every student -- and I mean every single student -- needs that sense of belief from you just as much as you need it for yourself, and if you can consistently harness it, they will recognize truly how much you care about them.
Let deep belief in your students, their potential, and their ability to succeed serve as your guiding principal. It has provided me with a clear sense of daily purpose I can feel in the core of my being, even through the most difficult days, and it has made my best days with students even more rewarding. I only hope it could do the same for you and your students.