I am honored to have been asked to present to a group of new teachers tomorrow. I typed this up as part of my presentation but I thought it would be a great blog post too. I can't wait to share my "Year 3 wisdom" with them and I'm excited to see where these new connections will lead us!
NEW TEACHERS, I NEED YOU TO:
STOP, COLLABORATE, AND LISTEN!
Hey New Teacher, I was in your shoes and I'm going to "keep it real" for you. Your first year is going to be tough. There will be days that you are feeling overwhelmed, unsupported, and unsure of your decision to enter this wonderful career. And that's O.K. Seriously, you're not the first new teacher to feel like this and you won't be the last. However, the first thing I need you to do is:
Wait, wait, come back New Teacher! I didn't mean stop teaching. No, you have chosen the best profession. You are shaping our future, modeling the culture of your community, and you are VITAL. YOU, my friend, have the most wonderful task on earth with the greatest benefits. So don't stop teaching. But do:
- STOP thinking you are by yourself. You're not. Find a teacher buddy. If you aren't sure who, just ask. Or, go peek into classrooms and see which one you would like to be in. Go ask that teacher for some time. I bet he/she will be happy to give it to you.
- STOP comparing yourself to the veteran teacher down the hall who has so many plaques outside their room that it looks like a second doorway. Or the male teacher with the cool socks that all the kids look up to. Or the amazing teacher in that book you just read (because I know you want to hone your craft and that is a great way to do it.) You don't expect your students to walk in on Day 1 knowing it all so give yourself a break too. Mistakes will help you grow. Asking for help is not a weakness, it's a sign that you care.
- STOP letting school consume your entire life. Now, I understand that you will need to stay late and take some stuff home. That's ok. As you grow you'll find routines that help you manage that stuff. However, if you don't remember to have some "You" time, "You" will burn out and be no good to your kids, your school, or yourself. Let some things wait. Go see a movie. Be the teacher that cares, but not just about the kids, about yourself as well. Everyone will benefit.
Not only do you have an AMAZING RD2 Mentor but there is a whole world out there full of teachers who are growing and experiencing some of the same things you are. Not to mention, there are teachers in your building who would love to try something new and hear the fresh perspective you can bring. You were hired because you have a unique quality that they wanted, so make sure to bring it! You don't have to do it alone though. With technology, you can even find a friend in another state or another country. Twitter has a vast network of educators that are looking for collaborative opportunities. Or, chat with your IT person or librarian. You have lots of people and resources that are there to help you succeed. PLEASE use them. You aren't alone and you don't have to be alone. Your kids will thank you for it and everyone will benefit.
I'm going to be honest. This was a tough one for me. I walked in thinking that I was going to be the most special, amazing, awesome teacher. I was going to write all my own lessons with a fresh perspective and chock full of creative energy and learning fun. I had big expectations of myself and I just didn't listen when others tried to share their lesson plans with me. I could do it all! But I couldn't. I don't think anyone can. Listen, really listen, when other teachers share their methods. Listen when they make suggestions, and listen when they tell you what didn't work for them. That doesn't mean you aren't awesome (I am!) but it does help you to find what works best for you. That was the worst thing to hear in my first year but it's true. However, "what works best for you" is something you learn over time. It's a process. Allow the aid of your PLN (Professional Learning Network) to guide you so that you can realize the full potential of all that awesomeness.
And, last, but possibly most important, LISTEN to your students. They are the reason you work so hard and give so much. And they totally make it all worthwhile in the end. Please listen to them because they love you so much and they will tell you everything you need to know. Listen to them, not just when you ask a question, but when they are talking to others, reading out loud, or sharing during Morning Meeting. The more you listen, the more you will hear and you will create a community that will last a lifetime. Everyone will benefit.
So, New Teacher, go and enjoy your 1st year. When in doubt, just stay cool... think of Vanilla Ice, Ice, baby. You got this.