Dear Me,

A9

I’m joining with other educators across the country to participate in Talks With Teachers’ May Challenge. The theme of the month is reflection. Be sure to check out their website and download some of the great podcasts available.

Week One Challenge:

Watch this video.

Read this article.

Write yourself a letter for the first day of this past school year OR for the first day of your teaching career.

 

Dear  2002 Me,                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
You’re feeling a little nervous today and rightfully so. Even though you have some idea that what you are about to do is important, you have NO idea just how important your chosen vocation really is.  And, I hate to tell you that you might not figure that one out for a while.  
 
So, let me give you some advice that will help you see that sooner. 
 
First, I know that you want to do your best. You’re a go-getter, and you have good instincts. Unfortunately, your instincts won’t always be right.  How will you know?  You’ll listen.  You’ll listen to the people who have gone before you; the ones who have been there forever. But you will also need to find new voices.  Voices outside of your hallway, your building, your district and town. Find voices in other parts of the country and other parts of the world.  Sometimes those voices will oppose your well-intended ideas and thinking. Sometimes they’ll scare you, and you’ll want to turn them off. Don’t. Your instincts make you good.  But, surround yourself with people that will make you better. 
 
I’m sorry to say, that even though you thought you were done with statistics when you left college, you’re not.  Very soon you will realize that everything comes down to statistics.  Student data will potentially take over your life, causing you to break out in random cold sweats, start having nightmares each August, and sometimes make you regret your career decision.  In the coming years, even you will become a statistic, AND they’ll put your number in the newspaper for everyone to see. But WAIT! There’s good news. You should hear now that none of that really matters.  You should hear now that there are things worth worrying about at 11:30 pm, and things that are not.  When given a choice between worrying about how you’re going to get Johnny to pass the state test and how you’re going to get Johnny to see himself as a writer, choose the latter.  If you are going to worry about something, worry about how your students in poverty will find books to read this summer, not how you’ll meet your SGP or your SGO.  Numbers have a way of being important one day and insignificant the next. Remember this: your students aren’t numbers, and neither are you. 
 
There are so many little things I’d like to tell you. Things that will help you be a good classroom manager.  Things that your students will love or hate. Things that you should never say to a colleague or a parent or the custodian. But, you’ll learn all of those important lessons along the way.  So, let me finish by telling you the key to your success as a teacher. Yes, the key! It’s one word that will make or break you, and I want to tell you now, so you don’t spend too many years trying to figure it out. Relationships. Yep. It’s true. I know you’re rolling your eyes right now. You’re not a warm and fuzzy person, and you’re thinking that there is too much to be done in the day to worry about the warm and fuzzies.  You’re going to be a respected teacher almost right away, because you’re a hard worker. You’re going to plan good lessons that engage your students, and they will like your class. But something will be missing. You won’t know it right away, because everything will look right. But if you take my advice, and give this relationship thing a try with your students, they will really surprise you.  You will really surprise you.  
 
You see, I told you that listening to voices is really important. The most important voice you can listen to is the one that comes to your desk every morning just to chat.  The most important voice is the one that wants to tell you about a new cat, when you want to talk about geometry. Listen to the voice that tells you that the homework isn’t done again. Listen to the voice that says, “I can’t do it.”  Listen to the voice that says, “I don’t like to read.” And then, ask, “Why?”
Remember, I told you that numbers don’t matter? To many people, your students will be a number, and unfortunately, it will be all too easy for them to live down to everyone’s low expectations.  Don’t let them. Tell them they matter. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Know them, love them, affect them, and let them affect you. You’ll be a better teacher for it, and they’ll be better students. 
 
So, that’s it. I wish I could tell you that it won’t feel like work, you’ll always be appreciated for your efforts, and you’ll skip out to the parking lot every day at 3:40 pm. I’m so sorry, but it will feel like work, hard work, the kind of work that exhausts you. But most days, you will be a good tired, the kind that makes you fall asleep with a smile on your face.  You won’t be celebrated, your students won’t always love your carefully planned lessons, and some days you will run for your car at 3:38 (shhhh). 
But, one day, hopefully soon, you will see past all of that and realize that you have the most important job in the world. 
 
Love, 
The me that is still learning
 
 
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