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Morning Minutes: January 6, 2016

Do. Learn. Do Better.  As some know, I am also an adjunct professor in the education department at Eastern Washington University, and last night I started the quarter with a group of new teacher candidates just entering the education program.  I teach secondary classroom management.  This is my fourth year with Eastern, and though I was initially reluctant to take on this role, for I wear many hats, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience, both humbling and inspiring.

As with every quarter, after the students introduce themselves, I begin by introducing myself, sharing my background and experience, apologizing that I am only a high school teacher, not a full-fledged university professor.  That done, I then frame the course by sharing with them what I hope they get out of the class.

What I hope you get out of this class.

  • I hope you gain a better understanding of who you are and who you want to be as a teacher.
  • I hope you benefit from my 20 years of being in the classroom.
  • I hope you understand that there are many ways to do things, and it is your job to find your way.
  • I hope you establish a strong philosophical foundation regarding your beliefs, convictions, and ideals about education.
  • I hope you develop solid, practical procedures that will help you become an effective teacher.
  • I hope you worry less about your grade and more about your learning.
  • I hope you understand that you will not leave here experts on classroom management, for I can only give you tools, not experience, and experience is king.  You will truly begin learning the art and science of management during your student teaching.  Be patient and realistic.
  • I hope you embrace the power and importance of relationships in the classroom.
  • I hope you expect and accept that teaching requires reflection.  Do. Learn. Do better.


At this point, I place particular importance on the last bullet, telling them that–more out of necessity than clarity–I adopted this mantra early on in my career, and now at year twenty I still mutter it daily–sometimes several times–as I make mistakes throughout my day and learn.  In fact, I share with them that a full tally would reveal that my failures outnumber my successes. And while I might not have readily admitted that early in my career, for fear of revealing any failure, I now proudly reveal my losing record, embracing my mistakes not as a sign of failing but rather a sign of learning.  I do this to set my students’ minds at ease, to set them up for failure, which I know sounds awful, but I also attempt to arm them with the power of reflection.  And I have found the two–mistakes and reflection–to be key ingredients for my success, a simple recipe with no secret ingredients, a recipe that I certainly did not create but stumbled upon, a recipe that many veteran teachers follow and must pass along to those who are new to the profession.

As I drove home last night, reflecting on successes and failures in the classroom, I began thinking about my blog, and I began worrying about my audience’s perception of me, fearing that I may come across as one who has it all figured out.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I don’t have it all figured out.  I am just trying to figure it out, but I’ve come to realize that there is little hope or purpose to figuring it out alone, and that is why I have started this blog. That is why I want you to join the conversation, an honest, share-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly conversation about how we can make education better.  Let’s do.  Let’s Learn.  Let’s do better.  Let’s change education.

Have a great day, all.  I have to get ready to go and make my mistakes for the day.  


4 Replies to “Morning Minutes: January 6, 2016”

  • As a Cheney grad who is now in my first year of teaching (kindergarten) this really resonates with me. Especially as a first year teacher it is terrifying to come to the realization that you will make mistakes. It is a common mantra in my classroom (and my students will happily tell you) that mistakes are good because we learn from mistakes. However, I often find it hard to follow this myself for fear of coming across as an ineffective teacher. Thank you Sy for the reminder that we need to allow ourselves the same grace that we want our students to give themselves.

    • Thanks, Amanda. So glad you joined the conversation. Love that you are teaching kids at such a pivotal age to embrace their mistakes as a necessary part of the learning experience. I wish my high school kids would embrace it as readily as yours. As far as your fear of coming across as an ineffective teacher, I’ll let you in on what I believe is an all-too-well-kept secret among teachers,we all worry about it…well, at least those of us who want to be effective. Trust me, after grading some work tonight, I was visited by my old friend self-doubt; we’re well acquainted. I don’t shoo him away any more. We talk. I learn. I do better. Well, at least I try. Best of luck in the second half of your first year, kiddo. Enjoy every moment of it. Even the mistakes.

  • This has been, by far, my favorite entry. I can also vaguely remember you telling us to do, learn, do better 16 years ago (yes really) when I was in your class. Back then you weren’t even a high school teacher! wink emoticon

    I have two bits of feedback if you’re interested (I’m going to give them either way, but if you’re not interested you can stop reading). 1) the future teachers who are having the opportunity to learn from you are uniquely blessed because there are a lot of professors who have never actually done what they teach, only learned to teach it. Being “just a high school teacher” is a gift to them. I hope that you see it that way and that apologizing is just your way of breaking the ice. And 2) I’m reading a book right now called Positive Discipline. It was recommended to me by a fellow mom who got the recommendation from one of her teachers in high school when she said that she herself wanted to be a teacher. It is written to parents and teachers, and so far, I’m really enjoying it. I could also see it adding value in the classroom management department.

  • This morning I think you gave us all something GREAT. We all need to review the list you presented to your students. We all need to review the list and ask ourselves these life questions, whether on a parent ,teacher, or student level. What are our own perspectives, how do we as parents , teachers, even public act upon and present ourselves to our kids or students. We have all had to “do/learn” in our own ways throughout our life. This helps us find our way, our fit in life, though hard at times.

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