Unsolicited Advice for New Teachers

Totally unsolicited advice for new teachers:

You might hit a moment in a staff meeting where you want to share what you really believe about standardized tests and so-called data and what it's doing to kids. You might also be worried that teachers will call you idealistic. Go ahead and do it. Sometimes veteran teachers need the reminder. You have the permission to speak up.

At the same time, you may also have tons of questions. You may be on the fence about giving out homework or going project based or abolishing grades. You have the permission to ask questions and to live in that uncertainty for awhile and to listen.

You may be feeling bad about spending hours outside of school thinking about projects or grading papers. It might feel like teaching is consuming you. Veterans will tell you that you need to work less. They're right, but who cares? This is your chance to learn and grow. You don't burn out from hard work. You burn out from the shame associated with perfectionism. You have the permission to work hard, crazy-hard, in a way that others will shake their head at.

At the same time,  you have the permission to slow down. You have the permission to leave some papers ungraded. You have the permission to have a lesson that tanks and a bulletin board that's out of date and a class that doesn't quiet down even though you are doing everything right. Having a life outside of school doesn't mean you're lazy.

The bottom line is this: You have the permission to own your journey and develop your craft. It takes years for some. I'm a decade into it and still trying to figure it out. Others get there faster. However, you have the permission to work hard and slow down, to speak up and to listen, to offer ideas and to learn. It's your journey.

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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