#SawYouBeingAmazing: How My Colleague Inspires Me to Grow

by | 05.8.19

Christie Nold is a teacher in Vermont. Follow her on Twitter @ChristieNold.

I’m lucky enough to work with a colleague who always pushes me to grow, and I want to celebrate him this Teacher Appreciation Week. His name is Jeff Novak, and he’s a 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher at my school. I want to share the ways Jeff handles the tough moments in teaching, because I think his approach is one we can all learn from – I certainly do.

One of the things I really appreciate about Jeff is how he creates space for challenging conversations among colleagues – and I so value his ability to slow down and reflect.

Jeff is always asking fantastic questions of himself and others – and his questioning is always in service of moving our work forward for students. I’ve never seen Jeff get stuck admiring a problem. He’ll certainly acknowledge when something feels difficult or frustrating – but then, right away, he’s jumping into thinking creatively about what is needed and what barriers we can break down.

I think there’s a tendency for us, as educators, to feel that the alternative to being “negative” is a type of sunny positivity, which can feel inauthentic in the face of real challenges. But Jeff shows us that isn’t the case: he embraces a type of positivity that goes beyond “smiling.” He asks: Is it possible to make this happen for kids, and if so, what is going to make it happen?

When he turns that questioning on his own practice, amazing things happen! Right now, he’s engaging in action research with fellow educators, trying out a framework for bringing in culturally sustaining pedagogies. He’s embracing new texts with his students and trying out “book clubs” to engage them in real-world reading experiences. He’s bringing his own passion into the classroom with this incredible Hamilton unit his students love.

Working alongside someone who is constantly growing, I can’t help but be inspired to ask more questions of myself. Working with Jeff makes me a better teacher. So this Teacher Appreciation Week, I encourage you to identify and celebrate your own “Jeff”: Who are the people inspiring you to always do better for our kids?

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