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Goals: New vs. Veteran

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When I finished my teacher prep program and was working through my first teaching job at a large public school, I suddenly remembered pulling all-nighters in college. And I hated grading. And planning was crazy. And learning all of the stuff at school, including what kinds of resources were there, and who to ask for what, and who to not ask for what, and how to order lab supplies, and what an evaluation really means, and how the union worked (and lots to think about with the narrowly-avoiding-a-strike negotiations), and salaries, and… oh yeah… the kids. Being in class was actually calmer and more fun than being outside of class, and I loved it.

I’d been told that the first year is mostly about survival. Just make it through. I’d had a good feeling because I’d taken copies of worksheets (and therefore, a rough curriculum guide) from two teachers while student teaching. But merely having a curriculum didn’t prepare me for all of the issues at hand.

This year has been rough for a number of reasons. Some are personal, but in addition to teaching my normal load of kids, I’m also working on renewing my teaching license and trying to combat the teaching sloth that I’ve felt recently, as well as a general degree of negativity. Oh yeah, and spend time with my family and take care of myself. It’s a hard balance, but this year feels a lot more productive than the last couple.

So here’s my question: when does it shift from merely surviving to thriving? What’s the thing that makes you (as a professional) get beyond the challenges of day-to-day junk, and transform into the teacher you want to be?


4 responses »

  1. I think it’s a spectrum that you slide along from year-to-year (month-to-month? day-to-day?). Lots of self reflection and lots of productive professional conversations are key for me to be a happy thriving teacher as it’s hard to get authentic feedback (I don’t actually trust the kids on most items as my best compliment day was the day I straightened my hair #facepalm).

    So no answer to you to your query of ‘when’ from me. I think we all cross those lines repeatedly throughout life. Keeps it interesting.

    • Clearly there’s no magic time (“Hey, 4.827 years! I’m a veteran!”), but do you think there are certain skills/comfort levels/achievements that someone has to do in order to be at “veteran” levels?

  2. I think the shift from surviving to thriving happens when certain things go to autopilot and you don’t notice that shift happen. Suddenly the way you record grades becomes habit. Your morning routine gets set. Your copy ritual. How you do the prepare-teach-test-assess cycle.
    But I don’t think it ever gets easier and I don’t think it should ever be set in stone. I like having the ground shift under my feet. I’m never going to be “comfortable”. And I think that realization was a big step towards my becoming a veteran teacher. Internalizing that this always changes and I’m always going to running to keep up, but learning to love to run and getting good at it.

    As far as getting past the day-to-day junk, I try mixing things up all the time. I try things I’m 60% sure will fail, because if they work Yay, it worked and if they don’t Yay, I get to fix this. I like the mantra How Far Will This Bend Until It Breaks. Vets have the confidence to find that point without fear because we know we’re skilled enough to recover after the break.

    Keeping a blog like this will help because it forces constant self-reflection. One thing I deeply believe is that we are all faking it to some degree or another. Vets are just better at faking it.

    But this is an important question and I hope you get lots of answers.

    • I agree that finding yourself in the classroom is awesome, and definitely one thing to no-longer-worry-about. Makes some stuff easier. I probably won’t ever be comfy in my particular curriculum, as it can only get better/improved.

      How do you continually change things without being a newbie all over again? I mean, if I went back and got a totally different endorsement (like English or PE), I think I’d be pretty nervous again.


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