Today we held New Teacher Orientation for our new staff members. It was a privilege to be with this group of excited professionals looking to build a fabulous career. My message to them was brief, but focused on the following points:
Why you? We had thousands of applications and conducted hundreds of interviews for the positions those folks were hired to fill. We didn’t hire them because we thought they fit the “Nordonia Way.” We hired them because we saw something in them that we wanted to become more like. They are talented and professional, and we hope to learn from them and benefit from their talents.
Camp Is for the Campers Camp is for the campers, and school is for the students (see my related blog HERE). While teaching will provide a wonderful career, put a roof over their heads and food on the table…school is for the students. They are who we serve.
The Greatest Miracle in the World Og Mandino wrote, “The surest way to doom yourself to mediocrity is perform only the work for which you are paid.” (See the quote HERE). None of our new teachers were sitting at orientation this morning hoping they will have a long, mediocre career. They want to have a great career. The way to ensure that is to give more than is expected.
Easiest Job in the World Being a mediocre teacher can be the easiest job in the world. By treating kids well and not making waves, the mediocre can coast through a long career. But being a great teacher is the hardest job in the world. Great teachers differentiate instruction, put in long hours, worry about their students, facilitate awesome learning activities, give meaningful assessments and let the results of the assessments drive their instruction, and so much more. You can have a long career of mediocrity and never be noticed. But the great ones take risks, make mistakes, and keep trying.
35 Years Great teachers teach 35 years, not one year 35 times. Great teachers understand that kids change, technology changes, the research on quality instruction changes. Dusting off lesson plans year after year is a way to doom yourself to mediocrity. It is fine to continue practices that work. After all, you don’t throw out the steak if the fly lands on the baked potato. But great teachers reflect and adjust constantly. If you aren’t reflecting, you better be a vampire.
Your Retirement Party Everyone will eventually have a retirement party, and everyone at the retirement party will be happy. Will they be happy FOR you retiring or BECAUSE you are retiring? Being a great teacher also means being a great colleague. Be professional and ethical and work collaboratively with your colleagues.
The Second Fisherman I have kept THIS poem in my wallet since 1988. Teaching is a mission. School is literally a life or death proposition for some students. While some students may have a great chance of success because of their family circumstances, there are others whose only chance literally rests on the quality of their education. The only opportunity they will ever have to find a job with health care and a pension comes from the quality of education they receive. We can’t give up on any student, ever.
Ride the Train Many kids are on the train alone. We need to do everything we can to protect these kids, to make them feel safe and valued, to ensure they are able to focus on learning. See my blog about my terrifying train experience HERE.
Kids won’t follow rules in May……because you told them the classroom rules in August. They follow rules in May if you build relationships in August.
Hero or Villain? All of your students will one day tell stories about you. Maybe they will tell stories at their class reunion, or tell stories to their kids or spouse. And you will be a character in every one of your student’s story. Will you be a hero or a villain? That is entirely up to you. Treat kids well. Make sure they describe you with adjectives that make you proud.