Dear First Year Teacher Self,
You know those crazy, scary thoughts you had about the time demands of teaching? You know, the ones brought on by seeing the first year teacher race into the teacher’s lounge, down a Snickers and a Coke in 2 minutes flat, and pass out asleep on the couch for the remainder of lunch while you were substitute teaching as a college sophomore? Yes, it really is that intense. Teaching, really teaching, is an exhausting job. Even when you design student-centered, differentiated, authentic learning experiences. Especially when you do that. But it’s all worth it; just make better food choices. When the student’s wish they could spend all day in your class, when you see a student who has been told he’s a failure succeed, and when the bell rings and the students say, “I can’t believe class is over already!” you know your fatigue is paying off!
Remember how terrified you were that you might mess up or not know the answer? It’s really going to be ok. You won’t always know the answer, and sometimes your perfectly planned lessons won’t work. Use that to your advantage. Teach students it’s ok to make mistakes, that we shouldn’t avoid them, that we won’t learn if we don’t make them. Admit mistakes, revel in them, announce them to students because you won’t make too many. That student who never speaks up in class? He’s been ridiculed for mistakes. He needs to trust you to model a First Attempt At Learning so he’ll share his brilliance. The girl who cries when she *only* earns 95%? She needs to reclaim her childhood, and you can help!
Never forget your main purpose. Keep student engagement and learning as your compass, and you will never go wrong. Administrators, politicians, standards, tests...they will come and go. Your students will only get one school experience. If they are learning, if you make it fun, interesting, and relevant to their lives, they will have positive views on learning and school long after graduation. They deserve to be the center of everyone with a stake in education’s universe; and if others won’t put them there it’s your job to fight for them.
Take care of yourself, and connect with as many educators as possible who know these ideas are true!
Your more experienced, but still student-centered, Self