During my 12 years in the classroom, I've discovered many truths that have guided my practice. Teaching is deeply personal. We each have to find our own teaching truth -- what drives us, what makes us the best teacher or counselor or librarian that we can be -- but I am hoping that maybe one of my truths will resonate with you and maybe that when you are jotting down your to-do list in the days (weeks and yes, even months to come) that you can pencil in a truth or two of mine to guide you on your journey.
Truth 1: FIND YOUR PEOPLE. Behind the scenes of every amazing classroom there are A LOT of people. Find the veteran teacher who has been doing this forever and can share their wisdom, find the teacher who will give you all of their files, find the levelheaded colleague who can read that email that you are thinking of sending and can give you honest feedback, find the person in your building that you can vent to. Teachers are some of the most generous people on the planet. They will give you their support, their knowledge, their lessons -- all you have to do is ask. Also, don’t be limited to the people in your building. I cannot say enough about finding people outside of your school who inspire you and keep you fresh. Find them -- follow educators on Twitter, go to an EdCamp, attend conferences. Find your people and never stop looking for new people who inspire you to be the best teacher you can be.
Truth 2: THINGS WILL FALL APART AND WHEN THEY DO LEARNING WILL STILL HAPPEN. Here’s what I mean: You can plan and plan and plan even then things will not go always go as planned. As a veteran teacher this still happens to me. The activity I thought would take 10 minutes, takes 30. The directions that were so clear in my mind make no sense to the students. What matters is what you do when things don’t go as planned. When things fall apart and you put them back together that you are showing your students what real learning is all about. What will they do when things don’t go as planned in the classroom and in life? Will they beat themselves up, stand back and watch things fall apart, or will they get back to it, innovate, change and tackle the challenges that arise. Show them what that looks like. Put things back together when they fall apart and ask your students to help you.. You’ll be teaching them to reflect, to think, to take risks. When things fall apart, you get to teach your students about more than your content, you get to teach them about life.
Truth 3: DO NOT LET PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD. Or, in the words of one of my daughter’s favorite Disney princesses -- LET IT GO. (Is the song stuck in your head now?). When I first started teaching I felt like I wasn’t doing my job if I wasn’t doing everything on my own. I created every worksheet, every lesson. I was scared to borrow things - thinking that I was taking a shortcut -- so instead I stayed up late at night creating and rewriting. Don’t do what I did! Find the instructional leaders in your school or outside of your building and borrow their resources and ideas. Spend this year learning how to teach, not worrying about the correct font for the worksheet or the perfect bulletin board. All of that will come in time -- focus on the essentials: building relationships with students and parents, sound classroom management and well-planned lessons tied to clear learning objectives. Do not let your version of the perfect teacher keep you from focusing on what is truly important.
Truth 4: TEACHING IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. You absolutely must pace yourself in this profession because we want you (no, we NEED you) to be here in 5 years. If you burn the candle at both ends, you risk burning yourself out. So know that there will always be more to do, that your work will never be done. Choose a time to leave work each day and that’s when you leave. That means that you will have be incredibly efficient when you are at work, but it’s worth it. If you are going to grade or plan at home, set a timer, when times up -- you are done. Pick one day each weekend when you do not think about school, when you focus on yourself, on your friends, on your family. Believe it or not, I did not become an effective teacher by being in the last car to pull out of the parking lot every day. I achieved it by setting personal limits, by knowing that I needed to achieve work life balance in order to be effective inside and outside of the classroom.
Truth 5: TEACH AND CARE FOR YOUR STUDENTS THE WAY YOU WOULD WANT YOUR OWN KIDS TO BE TAUGHT. To someone the child sitting in your classroom is likely ONE of if not THE most important thing in their life. And they are trusting you to care about and bring out the best in their child. Ask yourself: How do would you want a teacher to teach the people you love? The answer is with kindness, with compassion, with purpose, with vision, with creativity. Whether you are teaching Kindergarten or 12th grade, Advanced Academics or Special Education, you must value every kid like you value the people in your life. And the honest truth is that you will meet some kids who, for whatever reason, don’t have who someone that values them at home -- that makes your job even important. When it’s 8th period on the Friday before Winter Break and the kids are coming unhinged, when a child’s behavior is out of control, when a student is unmotivated and you cannot seem to reach her, when you know that a kid is not being challenged by an activity, dig deep and softly repeat this to yourself: I will teach and care for these students as if they were my very own.
There are so many jobs you could have chosen. Some people design buildings, others create new medicines, some protect our citizens, others sell products, some write books or articles. Teachers, we have our students. When we finish our careers, we don’t have things to point to as accomplishments. Instead, we have people. We, teachers, are changing the world one day at at time and our students are that change. Just think about that for a second. There is no work more meaningful than the work we do.
So, welcome to the team, friends. You’ve GOT this and the kids in your classroom are going to be beyond lucky that they’ve GOT you.
You might also like:
Who We Are
Join our list!