Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ten Lessons I've Learned as a Veteran Teacher

As I begin my 32nd year in the education profession, I have taken time over the summer to reflect what I have learned over the years. Even with all my years in education, most days I don't feel like a veteran teacher. Yes, as the beginning of the school year gets closer, I always find it hard to sleep at night as my mind is racing with anticipation and excitement for the upcoming year.  These are a few of the important lessons my students and colleagues have taught over the years.

As I reflect back when I first started teaching, we made our own games, bulletin boards, and Pinterest did not exist.  We created our own schedules, learning experiences, and lessons plans. Creativity was alive and well. We were a close knit community that counted on support and encouragement from our colleagues. With that aside, what are the most important lessons I wish I knew as a new teacher?
It's all about the Relationships
The first few weeks of school set the tone for the entire year.  Spend those moments getting to know each student personally.  Building a positive relationship with students and their families will make all the difference in the world. This is truly the most valuable lesson I've learned throughout my teaching career. 
Back to School in a Digital World - Building a Community of Learners

No Need for a Specific Behavior Plan
You don't need a classroom behavior plan for an amazing school year. Many times they cause more stress not only for our students, but us too.  In 2015, I did one of the scariest and best things I could have ever done for my students and myself. Yes, I abandoned my classroom behavior plan. It has truly been one of the best things I could have possible done.

Truly Listen to your Students - Be in the Present
This is something I still struggle with each day. Something I can't say I really did when I first started teaching. I was so worried about "me" and what I was doing, that I really didn't take the time. What most people don't realize is that teachers have to put what is happening in their personal lives on the back burner.  We have to try and be our best for students on a daily basis.  At times, this becomes a challenging task. Some of our students struggle with personal issues on a daily, and sometimes we are all they have to support them. Since I felt like this was an area I struggled with, I made a few changes in my classroom. Last year, I created two areas in the room for students to share their Daily Updates and Weekend Highlights with the class.  Now I can easily find time throughout the day and week to read and talk with individual students and make personal connections.

Laugh Daily with Students
Laugh and have fun!! With all the testing and curriculum expectations it is very easy to lose sight of the importance of this. I think my students laugh the hardest when I say or do something silly that was unplanned. Over the past several years, my students have enjoyed sharing jokes and riddles as we line up at the end of each school day. All the laughs is a wonderful way to end each day. Even students who had a difficult day  leave with a smile.

Charlie Chaplin

Give Students a Choice 
Give you students a choice to show their understanding and learning. 
Why do we all have to show what we learn in the same way?  
“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
 – J. K Rowling

When Students are given a Choice...Learning Becomes Relevant

Eme S. - Former Fourth Grade Student

Keep High Expectations
Never lover your expectations. Model and verbalize your expectations. Your students need to know you won't take less than their very best.
Former Fourth Grade Student

Model Mistakes and Failures
Wow, as teachers we make mistakes each day. When I first started thinking, I felt everything had to go perfectly for my students to learn and succeed. It is truly the complete opposite on how our students learn and succeed. 

Author Unknown

Share Student Learning - Student Discovery
Don't provide students with answers, let them discover and research on their own. Yes, this takes time but is so valuable to student-led learning. Make time for students to share and show their learning. Students taking ownership makes the magic of learning happen at its best!! Giving our students an audience outside the classroom makes learning relevant and meaningful. 

Kenzie D - Former Fourth Grade Student

Never Stop Learning as a Teacher
Most importantly as a teacher, never stop learning.  Let your students know you are learning with them and from them as well as others. Today, I just finished the training to become a Seesaw Ambassador, and I have to admit I was very excited about all the new things I learned.  Twitter and Google+ communities are  great ways to connect and learn with other educators who share your passion outside of your school district.

Author Unknown

Our Students are More than a Test Score
This is something that is a constant struggle for me.  With all the testing demands and curriculum implementation, it is easy to get bogged down with all the data expectations. Since test scores are shared, compared, and we are evaluated on how well our students perform, it is easy to lose sight of the true importance of our job as educators.  But at the end of the day, we truly know our students better than any score on a test or assignment. Our job is to help each student become all he/she can be and help develop a love and passion for life and  learning. 

I am Not a Test Score - Peter Reynolds

There are so many lessons that I have learned throughout the years, and I am still learning. It was difficult to select the ten I feel are most valuable for a successful school year, so I had to add an eleventh! 

Our Most Valuable Resource as Educators - Each Other
As +Ann Feldmann always says - "We are Better Together"  @annfeldmann1
This perhaps is truly the most important as we embark upon a new school year! We need others to share and collaborate with. As educators, we need a caring smile and a listening ear. 

Rita Pierson sums it up Perfectly

Every Child Deserves a Champion
I would love to hear what other teachers have learned over the years.

Here's wishing everyone a wonderful school year!