- Self-reflection leads to a clearer understanding of oneself. Someone once said, “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.”
- Many people thrive in knowing and sharing about their “one great thing.”
- Time helps us see who we really are.
Years ago, I worked with a woman who bought each member of our team a little hedgehog and added the note: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” It comes from Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox where he argues that hedgehogs view the world through a singular idea while foxes draw on a variety of experiences. My colleague’s intent was clear: she wanted us to embrace our hedgehogs and become great at what we were doing. She wanted us to be the best English teachers we possibly could.
Everybody’s Got an LLC
As an undergraduate, a professor suggested we join the associations connected to our discipline, so I did. When I went back for a Master’s in Gifted Education, I joined state and national associations for gifted educators, attended conferences, and published my work. A few years later, I became National Board certified, joined those networks, and focused on improving my craft and the links between what I taught and how much or well students learned. Then I earned a Master’s in English, which led to shifts in my curriculum design and delivery. After spending my whole career in middle school, I finally became involved with associations that catered to those learners. Before and during COVID, I jumped headlong into equity and assessment (sometimes together, sometimes not).
I have a wide PLN and even more educators I admire, and I noticed the same situation over and over: teachers who absolutely knew their “one great thing” and were capitalizing on it. They branded the work they shared (freely or for a fee), they specialized in their “one great thing” at conferences, and they wrote books. I was never jealous of their pursuits, but I did question why I never felt comfortable doing the same. Sometimes it seemed like my career was a series of costume changes. I tried being a hedgehog, but I found my “one great thing” constantly changing.I’m constantly consuming more information about topics that interest me. I search out what will make me a better teacher for my students, a better colleague to my peers, and a better leader in my school and system. Click To Tweet
A Problem Emerged
This came to a head around 2012. I was sitting in a school-required training on how to address the needs of advanced learners. The woman leading the session was talking about characteristics of gifted children, something I’d not only been working with for years but had a degree in and taught other adults about. After the session, she noticed I both had a lot of understanding and was not quite paying attention. I told her about my Masters’s in Gifted Education, and she said, “Why, you could have run this!”
I’d thought the same thing.
For years I engaged in professional development designed to make me a better hedgehog only to find I had a pretty solid background in it already. Maybe I simply needed more: more degrees, more conferences, more books, more anything that would help me be better. I couldn’t believe I’d learned all there was. (I didn’t, by the way, that’s merely how it felt. I’m not so pompous as to believe my learning on any subject doesn’t have room to improve.)[scroll down to keep reading]
Who Am I?
However, it took another ten years to put my finger on what was wrong. I was trying to be something I’m not.
I’m not a hedgehog with my “one great thing.” I will never be the one with all the books. Mine will not be the name cited in ground-breaking research in the field. I won’t be the go-to person for a particular topic. I’m not a podcaster, a blogger (not like those who updated daily or weekly anyway), or an edu-influencer. I don’t have all the knowledge.
I’m not a hedgehog with my “one great thing.” I know lots of things about lots of things. I’m constantly consuming more information about topics that interest me. I search out what will make me a better teacher for my students, a better colleague to my peers, and a better leader in my school and system.
I’m not a hedgehog with my “one great thing.” And that’s okay.
I am a fox, and I know many things.
About Megan Balduf
Megan Balduf is an English teacher with more than fifteen years’ experience at the middle school level. While being a classroom teacher had always been her dream, her reality allowed her to reach beyond the walls of her classroom. With the encouragement of administrators at her school in Fairfax, VA, Megan has grown through various leadership positions including mentor teacher and English department chair. As a model of lifelong learning, since entering the classroom, Megan has earned an MA in Gifted Education, an MA in English for Language Arts Teachers, and became a National Board Certified Teacher. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, running, and being Mom to her two children.