I firmly believe the job of being a public school teacher is much harder now than it was when I began twenty-two years ago. There are far more meetings demanding your time. The expectations that teachers meet the needs of every student are much higher (which isn’t a bad thing but is seriously difficult to do). New teachers impress the heck out of me.
The job is easier for me, all these years in, because I have so many varied experiences to look back on and to use to make decisions and to see what is coming. I have a large toolbox full of options. It is that way because I’ve had two decades to develop it and to fill it.
A first year teacher asked me recently if my classroom was rough my first year teaching. I burst out laughing. My mother did some substitute teaching for me in my first year and I think it took a decade to convince her it wasn’t like that anymore! (A decade in which I achieved my National Board Certification and was a part of several district-wide projects. I can remember my sister telling my mother, on more than one occasion, “You really should go back to her classroom. It isn’t like you remember.)
At this point in my career I’ve worked with so many different teachers, on teams, co-teaching, supporting preservice teachers, etc. I have learned so many tips, ideas, and big thinking about teaching from all of them. Some things I can pinpoint exactly who I learned it from. Other things have evolved so much over the years I don’t know where they began. I do know that the chance to work with so many educators has formed who I am.
At this point in my career I’ve taught hundreds of children. I’ve learned from each and every one of them. Each individual student has shown me new things about how kids learn and how they interact with others. That knowledge impacts how I work with new kids every year. I see similarities between current kiddos and past kiddos. I know what did and didn’t tend to work with kids over time.
At this point in my career I’ve been a parent for sixteen years. I am confident you don’t have to be a parent to be a phenomenal teacher (I’ve known too many of them to question that) but I also know that I became a better teacher after becoming a parent. The shift in perspective to viewing school as a parent was amazing for me. My own daughters’ interactions with teachers and experiences with school have changed how I deal with some things.
At this point in my career I’ve attended dozens of conferences and countless professional development opportunities. I’ve been through National Board Certification and renewed it a decade later. I’ve worked one-on-one with amazing instructional coaches. I’ve read many professional books and an immense number of blog posts and tweets. All of these things have pushed my thinking and helped me grow as a teacher.
I guess I’m trying to say that if I have strengths as a teacher, if I am, in any way, making it look easy, it is because of the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve encountered, and the time I’ve spent at this job. I can still see glimmers of the teacher I was twenty-two years ago but I am such a different professional now.
The job is hard. There are things I wish I didn’t have to do but on the whole I feel lucky to do this job every day.