When I began teaching, the idea of being a classroom teacher for 10 years seemed like an important milestone. I believed 10 years in education meant that you had “made it” and knew what you were talking about. 10 is the number of completion. However, standing on the other side of those ten years has made me realize that I haven’t really completed anything.
In many ways, I feel so much more comfortable as a teacher. I understand that reaching your potential as a teacher isn’t necessarily about learning what is left to learn, but more about how receptive you are willing to be to learn how to best meet the needs of your students. Most of us like to believe that we are endlessly open-minded, but I think the truth is that we all are limited by:
- The ability to acknowledge that we have a comfort zone
- Where the boundaries of that comfort zone are
- Our willingness to expand those boundaries
Anyway, here are some reflections I’ve made as I’ve thought about my ten years:
- When I began, I thought if I zeroed in on delivering content in an engaging way, the rest would take care of itself. I still believe this, but realize that all students experience trauma that is damaging relative to their unique experiences. Attending to those needs comes first, always.
- I used to believe that if students saw me get angry every once in a while, that it would show them how much I care. All it really does is show them that you can get angry.
- Making the decision a few years ago to not show anger in any way in the classroom was such an important change for me. I know my students notice it because they have made a lot of unprompted comments to me about it in their letters to me over the years.
- When I began, I probably wouldn’t have wanted my defining characteristic to be that I was “nice.” Now I believe it is the greatest compliment a student can give me.
- I really, really like teaching ELA. When I taught 3rd grade, it was the subject that inspired me on my way to school each morning. Being able to teach it all day in 4th grade has been a great motivator for me.
- Teaching as a parent is a different ballgame. It’s helped me be more understanding of my students’ needs but it is also time-consuming (duh). It has made me more efficient and effective during the hours of the school day.
I have long-term goals that involve impacting students from outside of the classroom someday. However, as each year passes, I decide to let the grass grow under my feet in the classroom. For me, the excitement for next year’s class continues to outweigh the possibility of impacting students from outside the classroom. I suppose when it doesn’t, I’ll know it’s time to pursue those long-term goals. I look forward to learning the lessons of what the next 10 years bring for me and my students!