Thursday, June 11, 2015

Congratulations to All First Year Teachers!

June, 2015

Dear First Year Teacher,

       Congratulations on the completion of your first year of teaching.  You did it!

       After making the decision to be a teacher 
  • and finishing your degree 
  • and navigating the job market 
  • and landing a teaching job
you have reached the point in the school year where you can look back and say, "I did it.  I've completed my first year of teaching."

       You probably learned some things that you didn't expect to learn--and that's a good thing.  (Learning is always a good thing.) For instance, you might have learned that some students didn't retain the learning they had previous years.  This might have caused you to consider different teaching strategies to reach these students and to help them to learn this year's content.  Secondly, you might have learned that you understand your content so much better now that you have taught it--compared to when you just had to learn it as a student yourself.  This might have caused you to consider that your students (too) may learn well be "doing" or by "teaching" (or explaining) what they know with other students.  Lasting, you might have learned that great lessons may take a lot of time to prepare and not-so-great lessons can be prepared quickly--and you have to find a balance between the physical time you have and the your desire to keep your students motivated to do their best.

       Mostly, I hope you've learned that teaching isn't the sort of profession in which people start out knowing it all.  Teaching is the sort of profession in which people get better at it the longer they do it.  I hope you asked your colleagues a lot of questions this year.  That shows that you are interested in growing and improving as a teacher.  (You may have noticed that the teacher across the hall from you--who has been teaching for ten years--also asks a lot of questions because she wants to continue to improve every year.)  Using different resources, using electronic resources, using different teaching's a lot to learn in a signal year.  Every year you will hear about new and cool stuff that you can use in your classroom.  So find the thing that's right for you, and do that extra one or two new things next year.  But don't worry about not doing it all; or not doing what that great teacher down the hall is doing.

       Learning about teaching is a big part of teaching.  There is no "one way" to be a great teacher.  (That's why no one has given you the Book of Directions of Teaching.)  This is what makes teaching hard--that non-educators don't realize.  But it is also what makes teaching a true profession in which professionals such as yourself need to get together to make the best decisions for your students.

       Enjoy your time off this summer.  But also spend some time reflecting on this past year.  What was great that you want to repeat next year?  What didn't work that you want to improve upon next year?  What is the cool digital tool that you heard about and never had time to learn about and that you may want to use next year?  Look for webinars to attend; find people and chats on Twitter that will broaden your horizons; read a book about teaching or teaching strategies that may be specific to your area of teaching.

       The best teachers are always learning and always improving.

       Be a better teacher, and the next year, and the next year.  And (again) congratulations on the completion of your first year of teaching.  You did it!  See you next year!

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