As I sit here the night before placements for next year are released, my mind is spinning with possibilities. Where will I teach? What grade level will I teach? Who will be my teammates? How will my transition back to the classroom go? Will I be as good of a teacher now as I was when I moved into a mentoring position six years ago?
While I don’t have any answers right now–and some of my questions won’t be answered for quite awhile–it’s that last question that I think about the most. So tonight, as I wait for news that’s still many (slightly agonizing) hours away, I think about all of the ways in which my deepest beliefs about teaching have evolved during my time out of the classroom:
I used to think relationships were important. Now I know they are. Relationships with kids, parents, and colleagues are the very foundation of the work we do every day as teachers.
I used to think my classroom had to look perfect and cute on the first day of school. Now I know that my classroom should be a canvas for students to leave their own marks on when they arrive in the fall.
I used to think I did my best work by myself. Now I know that I can do even better work with a strong team.
I used to think I was a teacher who liked to read and write. Now I realize I’m a writer and reader who likes to teach.
I used to think my hallway displays had to be inspired by my own creative genius (of which I have very little when it comes to designing hallway displays). Now I know that the students need a voice and ownership in showcasing their learning.
I used to think my lessons were all about strong teaching. Now I know that my lessons need to be all about student learning.
I used to think unstructured time in the classroom was wasted time. Now I realize that kids need some unstructured time to explore, discuss, and drive their own learning.
I used to think homework was essential for building responsibility and accountability. Now I believe that the work students should be expected to do outside of school should be an invitation to read, write and learn more, not a mandate that will lower their grade if they fail to turn in a worksheet or reading log.
I used to think technology was something to just “integrate.” Now I know that the tools technology puts into our hands are powerful, authentic, and essential–when used at the right times for the right purposes.
I used to think a classroom of compliant kids was a classroom full of kids learning. Now I know that compliance and engagement are two completely different things.
I used to think I had to solve problems by myself. Now I know how important it is to know and recognize the strengths of all of the professionals in a school so you know just the right person to call on when you’re in need.
I used to think looking at data meant figuring out each student’s deficits and trying to fix them, preferably before high stakes testing. Now I know that data is meant to show us the strengths we can build upon and the areas in which we will have the greatest impact when working with each learner.
I used to think parent-teacher conferences were difficult and stressful. Now I realize that they are one of the few opportunities for the two most important influences on a student’s life to sit down together and team up for the child’s benefit. And it’s even better when the child themselves can be a part of the conversation.
I used to think I had to drag home a bag or box or truckload of things to grade every evening. Now I know that there has to be a work/life balance and that the best thing I can do for students is to be present for them in the classroom, not spending hours drawing smiley faces on well-done work at home.
I used to think the most important feedback I could give kids was through grades and rubrics. Now I know that the interactions I have with kids in the classroom on a daily basis and the discussions we have around their work and growth are the most valuable forms of feedback.
I used to think my job was to teach the curriculum. Now I know my job is to teach students toward an understanding of the curriculum.
I used to think my voice needed to be the loudest and strongest one in the room. Now I know that I need to be the one who pushes the students to have louder and stronger voices of their own.
And, most importantly, I used to think I loved working with kids on a daily basis as a classroom teacher. Now I know I do.
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.