Friday, May 9, 2014

Warrior Trail Comes Home

Tonight I had the pleasure of speaking to some teachers just finishing their first year of teaching. They had graduated from Salish Kootenai College last spring, and they were having a reunion dinner - which is a great idea by the way - to chat with their instructors and see how things were going.

Incidentally, the Warrior Trail took me home tonight, back to my reservation, and I even drove over the hill where the background picture was taken.

Designing a talk for those with a small amount of experience is tricky! I can't tell them all things about teaching which they wouldn't know, and I can't treat them like veteran teachers. I chose to make a talk around both things they already know and things they don't know.

Here's the top ten list I started with:

Top Ten Ways You Know You're Just Finishing Your First Year of Teaching:
10. You carefully planned a whole unit without realizing that testing/assemblies/sports would destroy said plans.
9. A student asked you a question you couldn’t answer.
8. A student asked you a question you couldn’t answer.
7. You watched veteran teachers handle problems…and you were insanely jealous.
6. You are pretty sure the principal asked you to do too much only because you were new.
5. You went home right after school once.
4. A parent or student said thank you and you got choked up.
3. A colleague told you they thought you were doing a good job and you got choked up.
2. You came away from at least one lesson, one day, knowing you nailed it.
1. You’re looking forward to next year already. You even have the new planner.

I found myself really wanting to talk about professionalism in teaching without lecturing the group. It was hard to walk that line. I gave some cautionary tales and talked about reasons to be professional: that doing so helps others see us respectfully, quashes some of the scapegoating, and sends a message that teachers are worthy. 
I also shared this inspiring 10-minute video of Arkansas Teacher of the Year Jonathan Crossley because I think it sends the message that even early-career teachers can make a positive, lasting impression on people. 

Finally, I repeated NTOY'99 Andy Baumgartner's comment that teaching success is measured by our willingness to suffer and sacrifice. This is true, but it's wrong. Teachers are warriors, and we shouldn't forget that or act any different from warriors.

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