As educators, tracking the growth of our students can be such a common practice that it becomes nearly instinctual. We watch each day to see small, yet significant achievements in their coursework and academic lives. As we recognize points of growth, we mark the data as well as highlight their accomplishments. This becomes a habitual part of our professional life and greatly benefits us as we strive to encourage our students through present struggles and challenge them toward future growth.

Motivating people to grow is a valuable skill and can be used in many different spheres to develop and uplift those around us. It can, however, become a tool that we often use strictly for others. We can focus so greatly on the growth of others that we fail to acknowledge, track or pursue our own development. We can easily strive so passionately for the advancement of others while neglecting ourselves.

As teachers, we must embrace the benefit of reflecting on past growth in our own lives as well as looking forward to future growth in our professional work. We ought to take time to consider our growth as educators and the value it provides both our communities and us.

To see our own growth with a healthy perspective, we must begin with a humble spirit. In humility, we are able to appreciate the beauty of our growth while also striving for continual improvement. In other words, we can celebrate growth while still acknowledging our deficiencies that we are continuing to refine. It is common knowledge that every school staff operates with multiple professionals at different stages of their career. Being a part of this diverse staff allows all members to see the strengths and weaknesses of each individual and how they contribute to the value of the team. If we are willing and able to acknowledge our weaknesses before others and ourselves, we are better equipped to embrace growth and benefit from its pursuit. Approaching our own growth with humility allows us to rightly acknowledge our areas for improvement while also appreciating the support we receive from the strengths of others.

In many professional situations, we are routinely expected to display our professional growth through certifications, personal goals or professional development training. These are ideal opportunities for growth, but can lose their effectiveness when presented as a mandate, rather than being sought after by the individual. This leads us to the question: How can we approach growth as a personal pursuit, rather than a reluctant response to a general command?

I believe the best avenue toward approaching growth opportunities positively is through relationships. As we seek out coworkers and coaches who we admire, we are able to receive counsel that we both desire and respect. In education, we must be actively questioning those around us for areas where they have seen growth within us as well as opportunities for us to grow further. These are the exact types of questions we all wish that our students initiated each and every day. As we humbly seek counsel from our colleagues, we embrace the opportunity to model growth for our students and acknowledge the challenges that lie within it. For positive growth in education, we must seek out those around us who can pour into our work and help us in developing as professionals.

As we grow, we naturally build upon our strengths, develop further skills, and become better equipped for leadership. Part of the beauty of our own growth as teachers is the nature of its exponential influence. Those who grow from experience and dedication are naturally thrust into positions of leadership and wider impact. This not only benefits those new leaders in providing further opportunities for growth, but it allows them to extend their reach and service to others who they may have not previously served. Committing to greater leadership and service to others is an act of self-sacrifice and requires great generosity with your time, energy and skills. We, as educators, ought to strive toward continual growth so that we might claim the privilege of serving in new capacities where the need is always great.

As you look back on this past year, where do you see growth in your life as an educator? Which aspects of your work do you long to develop in this upcoming year? Teaching is both a science and an art. It requires knowledge and structured planning while also demanding finesse and strong relationships. Consider how you may become a better educator throughout this year. Approach your craft with a humility and passion for better service. Reach out to those around you for counsel and guidance for growth. Embrace the ever-present opportunity to grow in your teaching capacity.