In Teach Like a Pirate (2012), Dave Burgess asks, "Do you want to be great?" (145). He goes on to say, "Could it be that wanting to be great seems egotistical or selfish? Let's destroy that idea right away. First of all, your greatness in the classroom doesn't negatively impact or inhibit anyone else's opportunity to be great. This isn't a zero sum game. The pie is infinitely huge. In fact, your greatness only enhances the opportunities and possibilities for others. By being great, you are raising the bar and providing a model for others to emulate. Being your best possible self contributes to the school culture necessary to create the environment for greatness to flourish" (145-146).
Do you want to be great? This is the conversation I've been having with some educators I admire, educators who are shining lights in the field. I've been thinking about Dave Burgess' ideas around this topic. He writes, "To ascend to the level of greatness, you have to be on fire with passion and enthusiasm. Mediocrity is incapable of motivating" (147). One more thought from Dave: "The decision to pursue excellence- as a teacher and as an individual- transforms teaching into an amazingly fulfilling and rewarding profession" (147).
I think this is a conversation worth having, because in my experience, it isn't always comfortable to strive to be "great." There are many reasons why you might not want to "go big" with your ideas or passion. For me, sometimes I worry people might think I'm acting as if I know it all or have all the answers, when that is the furthest thing from the truth. The more I learn, the more questions I have and the more ways I see I need to improve. I would never want to come across as someone who believes I am doing things "perfectly." But should I not share the things that I am doing? Areas where I've grown or taken a risk? Shouldn't we all feel comfortable to talk about ideas we've tried or progress we've made in an area of our teaching?
Another reason it might be hard to strive for greatness is pressure not to do "too much" for fear others will be made to do it. If you create that website, will everyone have to do it too? If you try that new idea, does that reflect negatively on those who are not trying out the idea? Thus, there is a pull to stay with the same-old, same-old. You don't want to be seen as making others look bad.
Yet...when you have a lot of passion and teaching is not your "job" but, in many ways, your life, you can't help but work towards greatness, knowing you will never really get there, but improving yourself each step along the way. As you improve, your students are awakened to more opportunities and a better, enriching school experience.
Have you struggled with the answer to the question, "Do you want to be great?"