Blog Response #5

Title of Post:  Letter To A Young Teacher


I don't remember where I read it, but I was reading another article that mentioned the oft-quoted stat about how many teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and I was thinking about how many really amazing young men and women I've known in my career who fell into that category, and I was thinking about a conversation I had with an old colleague at Beacon and how she said, "Yeah... that year three or four mark, that's a dangerous time, because that's when you think you know so much more than you actually do." And I was thinking about my own progression as a teacher and how true that was... And I was thinking about some of the things people who stayed with the profession seemed to embody that the ones who left didn't. I was thinking about what I want to say to all those teachers who, right around year three or four, start to leave the profession...

Dear Young Teacher Thinking of Leaving,

You've stuck with this job for a few years now. You have made it past the hardest few years, but it's still a really hard job. And you're at a point where you know a lot about the job, but there's still a lot to learn. And the things you haven't learned yet are the some of the things you need to stay with this job. I don't know for sure that you should stay; after all, people switch professions these days. But here are some of the things it takes longer than three or four years to really, really learn. Some of these are things I've had to learn the hard way, some of these are things I've seen others learn the hard way, and a lot of these ideas are things that I keep having to relearn all the time.

This job is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as we don't like to admit it, we have to acknowledge our need to pace ourselves.

However, you learn something in time that makes that easier. You aren't their only teacher. You aren't the only adult in their life. And even if you were, you can't be everything to every kid.

You learn that perfection is a lousy goal because it is unattainable.

You learn that excellence is a better goal, but even that is a moving target.

In other words, you learn that the perfect really is the enemy of the good.

You learn that it's just not about you. And it's just not about the kids either. It's about the space between where the meaning happens.

You learn that you can't reach every kid. And you never really learn to be o.k. with that.

You learn that you know a lot less than you think you do.

You learn that your colleagues know a lot more than you think they do.

You learn to find the teachers who can prove to you that you can do this job for thirty years, and you learn to go sit in their classroom when you need to.

You learn that you don't have to be young to relate to the kids.

You learn that teaching is both an art and craft, and that it is something you get better at.

You learn that the more you document what you do, the happier you are the next year.

You learn that retooling a unit takes less time than creating one....

You learn that the more you get good at the basics, the more you can experiment with new ideas.

You learn that you can't grade everything.

You learn where you can compromise and where you can't.

You learn that not every kid is going to major in your subject and you accept that that's o.k.

You learn that you aren't perfect... and neither are the kids, and sometimes the best thing you can do is forgive... yourself and the kids.

You learn that taking care of yourself is important... and that the kids know when you do... and want you to.

You learn that you shouldn't idealize other jobs.

You learn that the worst thing you can do is think of yourself as "just a teacher."

You learn that the second worst thing you can do is think that being a teacher is the hardest job in the world.

You learn that the best things that happen in your class weren't wholly because of you.

But you learn that the worst thing things weren't wholly because of you either.

And you learn that, in both cases, your presence did matter.

You learn that every time you are feeling like really know what you are doing, it's important to find the thing about the job that humbles you.

You learn that every time you feel like you have no idea what you are doing, it's important to find the thing that reminds you how much you have learned.

You learn how to ask yourself, "Did I give what I had to give today?"

You learn how to look at that question over time.

You learn that life is hard... that the teaching life is hard... that the movies rarely get it right... and that being a young teacher means being the adult in the room, and that's o.k.

You learn to find that teacher's voice inside you that is real, authentic and effective.

You learn how much good you can do... and how important it is to find ways to do that much good over a whole career, not as a martyr to the job, but as a healthy, clear-eyed teacher.

You learn patience.

You learn how much you have to keep learning.

Most of all, you learn that once you stop trying so hard, you can listen better, and then you can hear what the kids are saying back to you. And then you can learn that they change you as much as you change them.

It's a hard job, it's a frustrating job, and the vast majority of our schools are underfunded, understaffed and swimming upstream to teach the adult values of hard work, sustained effort and sustained focus when there is very little else in teenage life that reinforces those values. And you realize that the kids are hearing your message, even when you think they aren't.

Our schools need so many more of those early-career teachers to stay in the profession so that they can become the master teachers of the next generation. We need you to stay and figure it out. It's never easy, but it does keep getting better as long as you are willing to continue to learn.

And you do learn that, in the end, so many of us love our jobs more than the rest of the world does.

 My Response:

Your writing really hit home for me.  I am currently a teacher education student and have plans to be teaching in a classroom within the next 2 years and this concern of yours is one of mine as well.  After listening to the statistics regarding educators leaving the teaching profession, I have been filled with worry regarding my abilities to be a "good" teacher. 

            Thank you for this writing because I felt that I could really relate to what you were saying and I actually heard your words.  When you mentioned that the teaching career is not a sprint but a marathon I began to really listen.  I am realizing after reading this that the embarking of this third or fourth year mark is just as you quoted it to be.  "That's when you think you know so much more than you actually do."  This made me question my thoughts regarding this issue of teachers leaving the profession.  How and why would it be right for me to leave a job that I have not fully given a chance to?  The development of a teaching career is endless in length and because of this the learning of the profession is never going to be complete.

            The one idea that really resounds within me after reading this is the idea that throughout a teaching career, educators learn just how much they have to keep learning.  To me this means learning about the job of an educator, about the students, the field of education and most importantly after analyzing these factors, myself, to become the master teacher that the teaching profession is in desperate need of.


                    Melanie Griswold


Blog Response #4

Title of Post: When the fun stops, learning often stops too



Judy Willis wrote an article on "The Neuroscience of Joyful Education" that begins with this quote:

Brain research tells us that when the fun stops, learning often stops too.

This should be posted in every classroom. She goes on to say that "A common theme in brain research is that superior cognitive inpiut to the executive function networks is more likely when stress is low and learning experiences are relevant to students." Now I have to ask how stress free are our classrooms in which count downs to testing and focus on testing is the top priority - the end all, be all? Judy Willis points out that classrooms need to promote novelty, eliminate stress, and build pleasurable associations linked with learning. She says plan for the ideal emotional atmosphere by making it relevant, giving them a break, creating positive associations, and guiding students to learn how to prioritize information, and allow independent discovery learning.

All this got me thinking about joy in the classroom and how much joy I have seen blogging in the classroom with kids. I'm thinking in particular of the J. H. House kids as I have spent most of my time blogging with them. My next post is going to feature one of my favorite bloggers who has put a lot of joy in a few classrooms over the past few days.

My Response: 

Dear Anne,

    As a current Teacher Education student, this quote from Judy Willis is very aspiring.  It is a goal of mine to relate my course content to the daily lives of my students so that they can create use of the information presented to them.  Of course people like to know that what they are learning can be useful in their lives but it is also important for a teacher to remember that relating content to someone's life is a way to increase a person's attention and comprehension of the material as well.

     This quote from Judy Willis also inspired my brainstorming as to what other methods of assessment I could use in a classroom that would allow all of my students the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities regarding their different learning strategies.  This has started me thinking as to what kinds of projects and activities that I could integrate along with exams into my curriculum to do this.

     I am printing this quote to place into my resource file and hope that throughout my next few years as a Teacher Ed student and as a beginning teacher, that I will keep this in the back of my mind and plan my lessons with consideration for this idea.


                Melanie Griswold

Blog Response #3

Title of Post:  Life isn't always what it seems.


Tonight I came across this interesting site  created by Dan Brooke  which demonstrates in a very clear way what Photoshop can do for the 'beautiful' women we see on our tv screens and in the popular magazines. Just hover your mouse over each of the words on the page and you can see what can be done. What a great way to show our young girls (and boys) exactly what goes into preparing an image that is then presented as 'real'. Despite the fact that I think we all know that this goes on it's still no wonder so many of us women are never satisfied with how we look. The woman in the image on Dan's site  is Amber MacArthur  who is a Web 2.0 commentator that I have listened to many times on net@nite,  a podcast that she and Leo Laporte host. Amber also suggests that we take our girls for a video visit to Youtube to check out the Dove Evolution Commercial. Now they can see what a bit of make up, lighting and Photoshop can achieve towards creating a totally unrealistic perception of a perfectly beautiful woman in all her simple untouched glory. Better still take your girls (and boys) to the Dove Self Esteem Campaign for real beauty . What an interesting way to begin a discussion with both girls and boys about perceptions and (mis) understandings of our strange, strange media flooded world. 

My Response: 

Dear Ms. Baird,

I am really inspired by this idea of incorporating a sufficient amount of information regarding self-esteem into my curriculum as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher.  My hope that in teaching young students about this issue is that they will stop trying to become someone that they are not and that they will become comfortable in their own skin and just be their own "real" selves. 

It was reported by the International Self-esteem Organization, young people that are growing up with low levels of self-esteem are at much greater risk for becoming teenage parents, involved with drugs and alcohol as well as possible victims of depression and suicide.  This is such a critical issue in our world today especially for teens and I find it to be part of my duty as a soon-to-be secondary education teacher to emphasize the issue and educate the youth about self-esteem by exposing them to websites such as Dan Brooke's that demonstrates how the Photoshop program can alter pictures.  Thank you for sharing this website with us, as I will definitely hold onto it and incorporate it into my curriculum someday.


                    Melanie Griswold


Blog Response #2

Title of Post:  Seminars


Just come back from walking around the groups.   The students are all in seminars at the moment and are all really engaged in learning.   So far every seminar we've run has been really successful. 

Why are the seminars successful?

perhaps it's because the students have had an element of choice;

perhaps they feel a sense of responsibility towards the others in their team;

perhaps it's because they are meeting teachers they don't normally meet;

perhaps it's because they recognise that the intense learning that goes on in these short sessions are worthwhile and serve a purpose.   

    My guess it's a combination of all of these.   
    When I walk into the area of the school where the programme is taking place, at any time, the students always active and engaged in learning.   Some teachers have complained about the noise level, but I think this is getting better as the students become more aware of how their actions affect others.   

My Response:

Dear Armando,

    I really like the idea of incorporating seminars into the education curriculum.  I agree with your reasoning as to the success of the seminars with the students because as you mentioned, " The students have had an element of choice and that they are meeting teachers that they don't normally meet."  The idea of allowing the students to be involved in seminars of their choice will increase the students level of interest in the topic area and give them an opportunity to explore something that they wouldn't normally have the opportunity to.  Because the students are also given time to meet faculty members that they may not have been introduced to before enables the students to learn about different instructors, their personalities and possibly even open them up to finding an adult mentor available in their school.

   I believe that the students involved in activities of this nature are also given the opportunity to practically relate the information that they are learning to their everyday lives and because they can find a purpose in this learning many students will find it more worthwhile and fulfilling as a result.

   As a current teacher education student, I hope that during my career as an educator I am fortunate enough to participate in a program similar to yours.


                Melanie Griswold


Blog Response #1

Title of Post:  Sanity


Today was one of those days. Nothing went as planned. From automatic updates to forgotten login information to phone calls to stressed learners to last minute doers this was a day to survive and not repeat.
We hear much in the media about k-12 learners powering up afterschool. This must be how many keep their sanity. I found myself doing just that to preserve my own tattered mind.
With a cup of hot coffee and my RSS Reader, I blocked out the world for two hours. While listening to a podcast I read subscriptions, checked parent emails, meeboed, & twittered. I can easily understand 'digital natives' doing these things at once.
I was not working in any linear fashion. The brain does not do so either. Our brains actually resemble jungles, with the mass of interconnections between our 20 some billion neurons. Yet teaching in k12 schools continues to be in assembly line fashion. One concept at a time, introduced, taught using a procedure, guided practice, independent practice, and finally homework. All of this in linear fashion on one concept. Oi veh!
Why can't classrooms be places where many things are taught in a nonlinear fashion? Why can't classrooms be places where students are working on many tasks differentiated to their learning styles, not the leader's teaching style? Why can't classrooms be places where everyone is in charge of their own learning and not dependent on any one adult to tell them what to do?

My Response:

Mrs. Durff,

    I liked your point as to why do educators have to feel as if they just need to "survive" through their school/work days.  I agree that we as people do not function to the best of our abilities when things are treated as an assembly line in our lives.  It seems that our educational systems could be structured in a different manner that would be more beneficial for students and teachers.  I don't think that the issue is that people are not aware that this is an area that needs to be improved upon, but more of, who are the people that we need to be expressing our opinions to?  Do we need to voice our opinions and feelings to more people or should we focus our energies on those people that have the more influential roles in the educational systems who can begin to make changes.

What can be our first step in making a change?

Just some food for thought!


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