"Creativity is contagious, pass it on." ~Albert Einstein

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Blog Post to my First-Year Teacher Self

This August I will begin my 18th year in Education. WHERE has the time gone?  

It seems just like yesterday that I walked into Room 211 at Centura Junior/Senior High School to prepare for the 1999-2000 school year.   I was so excited to get started with my career in education.  It's hard to believe it's been 18 years.

I often find myself looking back at my younger self, realizing how much I have changed.  Especially as an educator.  So much that I wanted to write a blog post to myself as a first year teacher back in 1999. What five pieces of advice would I have for myself as a first year teacher?  

I've had this blog post in draft for about two years now and I am finally taking the time to finish it.  Here it goes...

Hey, Craig!  It's me.  Well, YOU in the year 2017.  I've learned a lot during the last 18 years. A lot about life and a lot about being a better teacher.   I thought I'd take a couple minutes to jot down a few pieces of advice that might come in handy to you as you begin your teaching career...

1.  Don't be such an authoritative teacher!  Quit being such a hard ass and taking pride in how "well behaved" your students are.  It's not cool to raise your voice and lead with fear.  You learned this from some of your favorite teachers/coaches in high school and you are now teaching/coaching like them. Stop it!  Don't try to emulate teachers you had.  Be YOURSELF.  You'll figure this out in about year eight of your teaching career.  

2.  It's about the STUDENTS, not YOU!  Your classroom isn't yours, it's your students.  Get rid of the 25 year old ego that's screaming, "I'm the Boss!" If you are going to post "Classroom Expectations" for your students on the bulletin board you sure as heck better post another poster next to it titled, "Expectations of Me, Your Teacher."  You set rules for students, you better have visible rules you have for yourself.  It's about give and take.  You need to not only build strong relationships with you students but you MUST develop and practice empathy in your classroom.  Developing empathy is the foundation to building strong relationships. 

3.  Get the hell out of the way in your classroom! Get out of the front of your room. Quit lecturing. Quit assigning worksheets and assessing with the test creator that came with your textbook.   Be CREATIVE, it costs you nothing! Empower your students with leadership roles in your classroom.  Engage in powerful conversations with them.  There's this thing you've started to use a bit in your classroom called the internet...it's going to change your role as a teacher (if you embrace it) tremendously in the next couple of years. This will all eventually make sense and it's going to be the best three years of your teaching career.  

4.  Don't let your part time job (coaching) get in the way of your full time job.  Yes, you have a full schedule of duties after school.  You are coaching junior high football, girls/boys' basketball and then boys' track in the spring, plus driving the shuttle bus to take the students back to their respective towns.  That's a lot on your plate.  But remember this, you are a teacher FIRST.  You were hired to be awesome in the classroom.  It's easy to let some of the things you need to get done in the classroom slide.  It's easy to work on coaching duties when you should be working on making your classroom an awesome experience for your students.  Balance.  It's all about balance.  Yes, sports are fun.  But they aren't everything.  You might think so right now, but eventually that will change.  Trust me. 

5.  Enjoy the ride!  Teaching is awesome, isn't it?  There are so many great (and bad) memories that you are going to have over the next several years.  Take some time to write these memories down.  Yes, the good AND the bad.  Learn from them.  Take time to reflect at the end of each year.   DON'T do the same thing year in and year out.  Hone your craft.  You are a paid professional.  Make yourself better.  There will be times that you will wonder what in the world you are doing in a classroom.  Teaching is hard, but it is one of the most rewarding professions on the planet.  Enjoy the ride, Craig! 

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