Sunday, March 26, 2017

To my teacher friends and others (thoughts as I near retirement):

Ever want to see how far you’ve come as a teacher?  Wait a few years and then go back and look at your planning documents from your first year.  In my case “a few years” is almost 38, and I just spent a few moments looking through a lesson plan book from my first full year of teaching high school during the 1979-’80 school year.  My memory hasn’t been so faded at any point that I thought I was a good teacher in that first year.  I even use some stories from that first year to highlight how not to train and prepare teachers these days.  Almost from the start, I recognized my inadequacies and worked hard to gain the skills I missed prior to starting as classroom teacher.  Although I was as proficient as the more experienced teachers with whom I worked, I was wholly inadequate.  Looking at that document from so long ago highlights how far I’ve come in my skills, as well as my perceptions of learners, the relationships among learner, teacher and content, the ways to engage all learners, and a host of other issues.  My learning over the past 38 years has shaped not only my thinking about the craft and artistry of teaching, but my thinking about the world overall.  To be successful in the classroom means that you have to think expansively and see the potential of every learner’s success.  You have to believe alongside learners and sometimes have to believe in them when they don’t believe in themselves.  And you need a lot of skills to pull that off authentically while helping learners explore and gain the knowledge they need to build their lives.  It’s an incredible gift to spend part of your life doing that, and an incredible responsibility to do it well.  In my case, my growth as a teacher has helped me see the world as an intricately connected web where each of us has an opportunity to participate in each other’s lives.  What a wonderful profession this has been to allow me such a journey.