Andrew approached me with his paper in hand, presented it to me and said, “Here, is this what you want?” I was teaching an elective in “creative writing” for juniors and seniors in high school and Andrew was one of those edgy students who often seemed unhappy with an assignment but worked hard to fulfill it.
I said to Andrew, “Is this what you want to give me?” And he replied, “You made the assignment.” I said that I did but that this was his work and I wondered if he was satisfied that this was his best work or that if I gave him another 24 hours to revise it and make it better, would he like to do that?
Andrew looked at me with a suspicious kind of smirk, probably wondering if I was trying to trick him somehow, and he said, “Are you serious?” I said yes, that I was serious because this was serious work and what I wanted was the best he had to offer and if another revision could make it better, then I would be glad to give him a little more time to make it among his best work.
I held out the paper and said, “Andrew, your writing is important and you’re getting better each week so if you want to polish this further, have a go at it.” He took the paper, smiled, turned and walked away. His revised draft was significantly improved.
As I have related this story to hundreds of teachers, I asked them the question if that’s what they want from their students, their best work, regardless of the grade level or subject they teach? They usually nod their heads in agreement or say yes although “best work” may mean something slightly different to different people.
I then said to the teachers, that is exactly what we want from you, your best work, and if it takes a little more time, that’s all right. If you need more time to make it better, then it’s up to all of us to find that time, carve it out of an already busy schedule, and have the opportunity to make your work as a teacher the best that it can be. Dedicated, talented teachers are not satisfied with anything less than their best.