Excellence vs. Mediocrity: What’s Your Choice?

“If I demand excellence from my students, I must first demand excellence from myself.”

I often meditate on these words. As classroom educators we always want our students to excel at what they put their minds to, and to always put their best foot forward when they try; however, oftentimes that is not what teachers expect from themselves.

Unfortunately, many of our teachers have become stagnant. They do what is required of them based on the contract they signed and no more.

There’s a difference between being “teachers” and “educators.” Teachers impart the required curriculum. If they find a lesson they enjoy teaching, they place the lesson in the filing cabinet and pull it out the next year.
Educators, on the other hand, are learners and facilitators in their classroom. Their commitment is directed not only to the students year to year, but also to themselves—a commitment to continue to gain new knowledge and understandings in the ever-changing world of education.

For educators, the profession of teaching is not an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. job; rather, it is a career that involves their whole heart.

One of the key characteristics of an educator is the desire to be a lifelong learner. It’s that same desire to learn that I want to cultivate in my students. I can teach them dozens of reading comprehension strategies, but if I don’t cultivate in them a desire to be lifelong learners, I have failed.

My students see me researching and talking to other educators about new ideas. They celebrated with me when I earned my master’s degree. We share not only a classroom, but our life’s journey as well.

Each year, an educator’s heart goes through a healing process. Little pieces of our hearts leave with the class that moves onto the next grade, and the healing begins when another class fills that special place.

One of my dear friends points out that, “It’s not always rainbows and lollipops.” This is true: being an educator is not for the faint of heart. Invest in your students with the type of return you expect. If you demand excellence from your students, then make sure you demand it from yourself as well.

Kelsey Eursery is a sixth grade language arts and social studies educator and department head at Sonora Middle School in Springdale, Arkansas. E-mail: keursery@sdale.org