Quote of the Week

Never say you are "just" a teacher. That's like saying Clark Kent is "just" Superman.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Congratulations to All First Year Teachers! By Rachel Walton, 3rd grade teacher at W.A. Wright Elementary

You did it! You have completed your first year of educating young minds. Congratulations! I hope you can look back at your first year and find lots of positives and shining moments. It is far too easy to dwell on the things that didn’t go quite so well, but it is important you give yourself credit for the things you did well.  I don’t know many of you, most in fact, but I know YOU made a difference in a child’s life this year. That is an amazing feeling, isn’t it?

I bet you learned a lot this year… probably some things you didn’t expect to learn. For instance, you might have learned that many students can’t remember much of what they learned prior to coming to your classroom, lots of acronyms used for various things in the teaching profession, how long you can go without taking a restroom break, or even how to keep a straight face in a serious situation when you really want to laugh. Above all, I hope you learned that teaching is a profession where you don’t start out knowing it all. It is a profession that is constantly evolving… we get better at it and know more about it the longer we do it.

I hope you were able to ask lots of questions this year and continue to do so. It shows your dedication and your interest in improving as a teacher. I’d like to think my mentee has learned a lot from me this year, but I would be willing to bet I have learned just as much from her. I was able to use ideas that I “borrowed” while observing her in my own classroom. Keep searching for the ideas and strategies that work for you and your classroom. There isn’t “one way” to be a great teacher. Explore the cool strategies and techniques you are interested in; try a few each year, but don’t feel that you have to do it all at once! Keep asking questions, keep searching for the best methods for you.

I would like to take this opportunity to share a quick story with you: At the end of my first year (before we started the current evaluation system…), my assistant principal asked me to reflect on the year and write down a few ideas of what I would like to improve upon the following year. I had a few days before we had to meet and I worked hard on my list giving it a lot of time and effort. I showed up to the meeting as confident as possible. I handed her my list and she sat for a moment staring at the paper… she looked up at me with tears rolling down her cheeks as she laughed uncontrollably. I was SO nervous I started to panic… what had I done wrong? Well, as it turns out, she wasn’t looking for my list of 37 things I wanted to do better, she was looking for ONE thing I could really focus on. How embarrassing, right? It was one of the MOST valuable lessons I learned that year. Choose one (or two) things to work on each year. I chose parent communication and am proud to say it is one of my strong areas at this point in my career. It took me a few years to get there, but I am finally there with the help of my fellow teachers and administrators.

Enjoy your time off this summer, but also spend some time reflecting! What was great this year that you definitely want to repeat next year? What didn’t work that you want to improve upon? (Ask other teachers for ideas!) What cool technology did you hear about but never had time to implement? Did you find a good balance between professional/personal times? Look for professional development that you are truly interested in. Read a book about an area of teaching you want to learn more about.

Great teachers are always learning and finding ways to improve their craft. Just remember you are not alone; even seasoned teachers have to work on and refine their skills each year.

Make it a goal to be a better teacher next year, and the year after that, and so on!

Again, congratulations on completing your first year of teaching. See you next year!

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