The Moth Hypothesis: Creating Amazing Educators

I have a hypothesis and I’m curious to know what you think. Ready? Here it is:

Teachers right now are better than ever.

I’ve been privileged to work with hundreds of teachers in the last few months, helping them to implement projects over the summer and to prepare for the upcoming school year. I’m always impressed by the quality of people who sign up to teach our students—but this year, more than ever, I’ve been downright amazed.

The educators I’ve worked with have been incredibly creative, passionate, dedicated, and caring—to a degree I haven’t seen since I started teaching, a very long time ago. It’s possible that I just got lucky—that the schools I’ve worked with have been particularly excellent. But I don’t think so; I think my experience is part of a real trend. Teachers right now are uniquely awesome.

I think I know why too—and the reason for our boom of amazing teachers is because we are, to coin a term, educational moths.

The Cocoon

Many people don’t realize how extraordinary moths truly are. Unlike butterflies, their caterpillars have the ability to spin silk. Moths can fly faster and farther than their daytime counterparts, and their senses are among the strongest in the insect kingdom. They’re also clever, frequently disguising themselves as different animals to avoid predators. (Plus, moths can be just as beautiful as butterflies when given the chance).

Much of this is thanks to their cocoon. Due to their silk-spinning abilities, moth cocoons are particularly durable. While this helps protect them from predators, it also means its harder to emerge from them. Moths need to dig their way out before they can stretch their wings, and this process helps build their strength. Ultimately, the cocoon serves as a crucible – challenging and refining the moth until they’re ready to fly.

The Transformation

The same thing happened during the pandemic. Teachers faced unprecedented difficulties. The year was more stressful than any in our lifetimes. Yet, in the face of all this adversity, we rose to the challenge in spectacular fashion. We discovered hidden reserves of creativity, sharped our collaboration skills, and displayed new levels of grit.

And what was the final result? A cohort of teachers who were willing to endure difficult times, who had learned to adapt to stresses and challenges, and who committed to remain in the profession—even when other opportunities beckoned. In short, we became a community of superteachers.

The Flight

Before I bring this metaphor to a close, I’d like to take a moment and say thank you. This hasn’t been an easy time for educators, and you should feel proud of your accomplishments. Secondly, I’d like to share a few words of encouragement for teachers who are still stretching their wings:

  • Trust Yourself: You’ve honed your craft through historic times. You’ve earned the right to have your intuition trusted — so make sure you trust yourself. If you believe it’s in the best interests of your students, then do it; you’re almost certainly right.
  • Have Fun: Passionate, deeply engaged teachers change their students’ lives. Think about what brings you joy in teaching, and make sure to make space for it in your day.
  • Stand Up: The school and the world benefit from hearing your voice. Think about an issue you care deeply about in your school, and respectfully share your thoughts. Your perspective matters.
  • Support Each Other: Think of one little way to go out of your way to celebrate the awesome educators around you. Write them a note, buy them a little present, or put a balloon on their car. When teachers know that we have each other’s backs, it makes all the difference.

So, what do you think of my hypothesis? If you’d like to weigh in, I’d love to hear from you. I hope the challenges of 2020 have given you the confidence to take this new school year in stride. And the next time you see a moth, remember how this unassuming insect represents you as an educator – strong, clever, and full of surprises!

Looking for more ideas to reinvigorate your classroom this year? Be sure to check out our free strategies and resources at!

*Image of an Atlas Moth courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.