I'm guessing (and hoping) that it's normal for people to fluctuate in their career confidence. But when all the fluctuating evens out, I'm still wondering...How do you really know if you took the right steps today, if you improved over your yesterday-self, or if you're even in the right career? Does any career give you objective enough feedback to know for sure?
After 8 years of constantly striving for self-improvement as a teacher I've come to the conclusions that I will always need to be better still, and that there might never be anyone who can actually help me feel accomplished. Administrators don't really "supervise" modern classrooms so they don't know if I'm succeeding or just skating by on any given day, and students don't know what they don't yet know so they're not always able to identify what's missing or unnecessary in a classroom. Then again, as each year progresses, my students' skills improve and they gradually become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. I also really try to listen to their needs and I hope this will improve their learning as well as my teaching. On the other hand, I can't rely solely on their evaluations of my teaching: they could be tainted by personality differences, by bias toward or against my subject area, or even by their emotional ups and downs that day. For this reason, I don't change my opinion of my colleagues when a student complains about them.
On yet another hand, I have to wonder...How is it that despite all that, I still believe students when they refer to other teachers as "awesome," "helpful," or their "favorite"? I've recently noticed that these awesome, helpful teachers extend a variety of teacher stereotypes--the quirky nerd, the compassionate counselor, the bulldog of a coach, the obstinate retiree. I've heard wonderful things about them all! It makes me proud to know I work with such amazing colleagues. But even though the logical side of my brain knows that's not the objective feedback I need, it's tough to be patient and confident while wondering if I ever have that same positive impact on my students.
And although I've run out of metaphorical hands, I still find myself asking how am I supposed to know the truth when my most consistent feedback is potentially subjective, biased, student opinion? Ha! I've just discovered the irony here. What I really want is a report card, an objective way to verify my successes and my shortcomings. I want to know when I'm passing and when I'm acing my job. I want facts, statistics, a supervisor or co-workers who will confirm my effectiveness, give me suggestions if needed, and keep my confidence from fluctuating!
But for now, it's 10:45PM and I still have papers to grade before I can fall asleep. At least my students will receive their feedback soon. The irony continues.