I shared the following with each of the four finalists for National Teacher of the Year as they traveled to Washington, DC to participate in their final interviews. Because it sheds some light on my experiences over the past few months, I wanted to share it here, as well.
You're on your way to DC!! I can only imagine how you must be feeling right now, and won't even try to offer advice. Instead, I want to share with you the emotions I've journeyed through over the past couple of months.
When I first learned that I was not selected to be a finalist, I was simultaneously crushed and relieved. My first two months as Virginia's TOY had left my shoulders in knots (I had one that alternated weekly from the left side to the right for a good 6 weeks) and completely convinced that the committee had made a mistake. As much as I felt honored and proud of my title, I also struggled with the gremlins in my head (and sometimes down the hall at school) that told me I didn't deserve it. So, when I found out that I was not chosen to move on, at first I felt that the gremlins were right. Obviously I didn't deserve it, because I didn't get it.
Then, this turned to disappointment that my message would never be heard. If I didn't become the NTOY, I wouldn't be taken seriously. I felt like I had let myself, my state, and my students down.
However, the knots in my shoulders went away and the headaches became less frequent. This physical relief mirrored the emotional relief I was feeling at not having to "prove myself" anymore, at knowing that I would not bear the weight of representing the entire nation.
THEN. California. I met YOU, and the 54 other TOYs, and realized that we are all amazing, that we ALL belong in this class, this year. I realized it isn't about which one of us is a better educator than any of the others. Rather, it's about who is holding the microphone, and on which stage.
I guess I just want to say that, whatever gremlins you've got niggling in your ears right now, they're wrong.
You are amazing.
No matter the outcome of your trip to DC, that fact remains.
Only one person will be chosen to hold the microphone on the national stage this year. If it is you, I know you will hold it well, and I will be proud to call you my friend and fellow TOY.
And if it is not you... That is not a reflection of your worth. It just means that a different person will have the microphone. And still, I will be proud to call you my friend and fellow TOY.
All my love, Michelle