Wow, in just a few short weeks I will be starting my fourteenth year in education. I think it is safe to say that education has come a long way in that fourteen years, and even safer to say that I’ve come a long way in those fourteen years as well. Of course, if I could go back and do it all over again – I would certainly do it differently. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain that my administrative self would put my beginning teacher self on an improvement plan and on a fast track to a different profession.
I don’t say that lightly. As a beginning teacher, my goal was to get by. I was caught up in classroom management chaos, and typing notes until about 2am every single day. I felt like I was Tom Hanks in Castaway – on a deserted island. The only difference he had Wilson.
Just getting by might be the motto for many beginning teachers but let me offer some alternative advice. Advice that if I knew then, my administrative self would be patting the back of my beginning teacher self.
Even though education is changing at a rapid pace a few things continue to remain the same and I ask that you never forget these things. I’ve put them in no particular order, and they all serve as great reminders for not only beginning teachers, but all educators.
- Remember that when you come to school tired, you probably have one or two students that came to school with no sleep.
- Remember when you get frustrated because a child didn’t turn in their work, that they may have spent the entire night watching a sibling while mom or dad or both or mom or step dad or step mom or dad worked through the night or partied through the night.
- Remember that the same child in number two may or may not have watched their sibling in a home, but rather a car, hotel room, or even the street.
- Remember when you find it hard to get out of bed to come to work, a child may wake up excited to come to school because it’s the only place he/she feels safe.
- Remember that when you get upset because a child scored low on an assessment, that the assessment does not define the potential of that child.
- Remember in life all of the second chances that you have gotten – your students deserve those as well.
- Remember when you get so mad that you want to throw something or bang a yard stick to the garbage-can that it’s quite possible a child in one of your classes was on the receiving end of something similar at home.
- Remember that it takes zero effort (figuratively speaking) to smile.
- Remember that every single child is battling something inside and you may be the one to help them overcome it.
- Remember that the conflict you may have with another adult in the building is probably miniscule to the problem that your students are battling in number 9.
- Remember that every child deserves to be praised.
- Remember that every child has a gift that deserves to be unwrapped.
- Remember that your students are watching your every move and they will model your behavior.
- Remember that you are human and being human in front of your students might just be the best thing you can be.
- Remember that your colleagues are also battling something inside.
- Remember to lift your colleagues up every chance you get, even if they are not lifting you up.
- Remember that failure should never be shadowed by negativity, but illuminated with possibility.
- Remember to celebrate the uniqueness of every one of your students.
- Remember to let your students drive your instruction rather than a textbook.
- Remember that conformity cannot be our goal in education, rather exploration, risk-taking, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone must be.
My beginning teacher self was consumed with content, time management, and frankly just getting by. While I was just getting by many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of children passed by. I realize now that connections must come before content. Relationships must come before reading, writing, and arithmetic. Simply put, to ensure that every child learns at high levels, we must love every child at high levels. Our students deserve our very best – even if we are at our very worst.
I wish you all a very successful 2017-2018 school year.