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.