Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Letter to a new teacher

Working with a student teacher this winter has reminded me how hard it is to be a beginning teacher, and how our trial-by-fire approach leaves much to be desired.

Being a beginning teacher is tremendously challenging. One can't really understand that without experiencing it. Starting out, we may envision something like a TED talk, with our own dynamic personality and the fascinating subject matter automatically enthralling and inspiring our students.

And then there's reality. A room full or real young people, with the struggles, energy, variety, exhaustion, and diversity of youth, craving independence, wondering what life is all about, identities tied up with their social lives in a way we can't imagine, worried about the present and future, and jaded by 10+ years of an educational system that cares not for such things. A system that's more of a filter than a fire-starter.

But this is exciting. What makes it difficult is the huge learning curve.
There's really a tremendous amount to keep track of when teaching a
class. It's not just about the content you have to communicate clearly and accurately (though for a new teacher, that's enough, especially at the high school level). You need to carefully watch how the students respond, constantly monitor understanding, paty attention to your own words, actions, and demeanor, and all of this on the fly, real-time. I've never surfed, but I imagine it's harder. And for the new teacher who is unsure of all of these things, it's quite a ride.

So if you're a new teacher, hear this: Don't expect perfection, and remember that this is really all about the kids. We don't fail unless we fail to see that.

The rest comes with time.

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