By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

What are you most proud of that you accomplished last year? 

What strengths are you bringing with you into this new year? 

What is something new you’d like to try this year?

Often when we think about competence, our minds turn first to the places where we feel shaky. “Where do I need to improve?” “What have I done recently that I should have done better?” and similar questions tend to be our starting place. But what might happen if we approach personal growth from a place of curiosity, instead of obligation?

As teachers, we strive to meet the need for competence in our students - as we inspire them to build their skills in mathematical problem solving, close reading, scientific data analysis, and more. We know this process is more successful when we encourage students to begin by identifying their strengths and then build on that solid foundation.

The same is true for us - as teachers and learners. In my continuing exploration of the ABCDEs of human needs, I’m offering the above questions as a starting point for understanding, and meeting, our need for competence. Keep those in mind as you work through this week’s prompts.

Competence: “I want to feel a sense of significance, worth, and accomplishment.”

For us to feel capable, we need a sense of empowerment, worthiness, self-efficacy, and achievement. This means an inner sense of achievement, accomplishment, pride, importance, and self-esteem and an outer sense of being heard and respected and feeling competent and attaining recognition.

Where is this need in your life right now according to this spectrum? 

How is the need for competence being met in your life right now? 

What changes might be necessary in order for your need for competence to be better met? 

You can fill out a version of these questions either online or via a PDF on our ABCDE website.

The extraordinary dancer and choreographer Martha Graham spoke of divine dissatisfaction as a key part of the artist’s mindset. Divine dissatisfaction is core to an Inspired Teacher’s mindset too. Yes, we are always striving to improve, to learn, to grow. That’s dissatisfaction. And…we strive to improve and grow from a solid foundation, a place of knowing our strengths and taking pride in what we have already accomplished. That’s divine.

Wishing you a week of growth and learning.

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Make Praise Meaningful

What do you typically say to students when they do high quality work? With adults eager to encourage and support children, “good job” and “nice work” become some of the most commonly-heard phrases in classrooms (and throughout our culture). Over time, however, these generic, evaluative forms of praise actually serve to diminish students’ self-confidence as learners, and decrease their interest in learning for its own sake. Descriptive feedback is much more meaningful and orients students toward both their learning process and intrinsic interest in learning. In this #InstigatorofThought Challenge, you track how often you provide generic praise and try some new language for meaningful - and supportive, encouraging - feedback.

What Drives You?

If we think about what motivates us to try new things, most often we can overcome our fear of incompetence when three things are present: choice, relevance, and joy. This reflective activity encourages us to look for ways to bring more of all of these things into our classrooms and lives.  

Join us for our FREE 
February Inspired Teaching Institutes

Each Institute will explore: 

  • "The HeART of Discipline" - a deep dive into our student-centered approach to navigating challenging behaviors in the classroom. 
  • Strategies for building intrinsic motivation through harnessing students' innate curiosity and tapping into their interests.
  • Practice with shifting interactions with students away from compliance and toward engagement
Here are a few things participants had to say about our January Institutes: 
  • "I loved the connection between people in the session. We were always actively involved in all the activities."
  • "Engaging in this way gives everyone a real feel for different ways of looking at things. I can see how these strategies will work better than just talking with students about negative and positive attention, energy, and attitude."
DC Public School teachers get PLUs through the Washington Teachers' Union for participation. Thanks to the generosity of our donor community, Institutes are free for all participants. 
Register for Wednesday, February 9 | 7-9 PM ET
Register for Saturday, February 12 | 7-9 PM ET
Download a Calendar of Our Monthly Institutes
Courses for Teachers
#Inspired2Learn Resources
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