Dear New School Teacher:
You could be anyone. Someone who completed any of a thousand education programs in the country. Your degree is still warm as it rests in your pocket. A resume of immense accomplishment glistens like freshly minted money. Eyes are bright, wide open, and filled with ambition. You are a new school teacher, and the world rests at your feet. Filling young minds with a love of education inflames your soul. You are ready. However, I beg you, no implore you, not to let years sap your passion and allow the basics of good teaching to leave you.
Please remember even after 20 years have passed a few basic ideas which I believe will serve you well thru your career. When you cross the threshold of your classroom, leave all bias at the door. I know this seems like a tall task since we are all inherently disposed to bias whether it’s through upbringing or other experiences that color our world. When you teach please only see a child in need of your gifts and don’t make judgments. Wrap your teaching in love and compassion and not misplaced assumptions.
Kids come to you unpolished or undereducated due to conditions sometimes unimaginable. When a child is underperforming in your class or has behavior issues take the time to build a relationship. Ask some questions. Speak to the child after class and you may find out some horrific truths. Homelessness, abuse, food issues, and incarceration of one, if not both parents, could all be issues which are affecting your student’s academics. Not to mention behaviors that led to suspensions or other discipline. Transportation issues may keep a child from school on a regular basis or the mom may be too tired or strung out to properly take the child to the bus stop. In short, just be there and listen when the time arrives and don’t ever relegate a child to failure just listen to the issues and be there in a mode of compassion and not judgment.
Don’t let burnout turn you into a cynic. Remain optimistic about your profession and speak about it positively when the opportunity presents itself. It’s easy for cynicism to creep in. We see at times the worst of humanity. Remain professional even when a child is enraged and saying things to you that are hurtful. Remember as I stated in the previous paragraph the child could be acting out due to unknown stress. Remember tragedy has no age range. It attacks all regardless of race, religion or creed. It is an equal opportunity aggressor.
Please treat parents with respect. Even when they arrive at your door filled with anger, try to deescalate the situation and bring the conversation around to a positive. Listen to the parents’ issues because they may give you an insight into their child you may didn’t have before. Furthermore, school could have been a traumatic experience for them as a child and they may eye you and the school with suspicion. Lastly, some may arrive disheveled or appear in apparel you may find offensive or inappropriate for a school setting but remember you don’t know what that parent is going thru, so offer compassion and comfort as a member of their community. In short, don’t judge and be a resource for the parent when needed.
In closing, have fun over the years and remember this old adage that will always hold true: “If you save one in your career you have been successful at your job.” This phrase may seem limited in its scope, but if you save one and he/she goes on to improve the world you can sit back in retirement and be proud. With that said have a good career and God Speed.
20 year educator