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Dear New Teacher,

By now you have been inundated with all kinds of routines, policies, standards, benchmarks, SLOs, and whatever other terminology your district uses. You’re probably feeling a little like a deer in the headlights because no matter how wonderful your teacher prep program was, it didn’t completely prepare you for this.

And I know you probably don’t want or need anymore advice right now, but as I reflect on the beginning of my 26th year, there are a few things I’d like to share; things that have made me a better teacher.

  • Build positive relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.
  • You’ve heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Look at parents and students as books. What you see is not always what you get. Make sure you look past the cover. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Collaborate. Learning does not happen in isolation, and neither should teaching. Both are inherently social.
  • Invest time and energy into the planning of relevant lessons and assessments. The work you do up-front will pay off through better understanding of the content being taught and fewer behavior management issues.
  • Let go of the idea of “teacher as expert” so that learning is student-centered.
  • Communicate effectively. Provide timely, relevant feedback, share progress with parents, and listen. Sometimes we want to do all the talking, but communication is a two-way street.
  • Strive to do what is best for students; never be satisfied with how things are, ask how they might be.
  • Teach, assess, reflect, and revamp. At retirement be able to say, “I taught 30 years,” not, “I taught the same year 30 times.”
  • Never stop learning and growing. I love the words of Heidi Hayes Jacobs: As educators, our challenge is to match the needs of our learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity. To meet this challenge, we need to become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches.

Have a great first year! It will go fast. You’ll figure out those routines, and the edu-speak will start to make sense.

Just promise me you won’t get caught up in the technicalities of education. Use curriculum and assessment as lenses, but never lose sight of what is really important: meeting the needs of individual students.