being a teacher, lessons learned, students

10 + 1 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

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Sometimes life smacks you in the face and makes you change your ways for the better.  Fortunately in education, this happens quite a bit, unfortunately it is not always in the most pleasant way.  I present a list of my lessons I learned the hard way.

  1. You may be really excited about something but that does not mean anyone else will be.  I joined Twitter more than a year ago and I have yet to convince anyone close to me of its value.  I remain undeterred in my plug for Twitter but at the same time also realize that perhaps they just don’t want to join.
  2. When you make a lot of changes, not everyone will think they are great.  I have changed many things in my classroom and while I see all of the amazing benefits, not everyone does.  I have many critics and my skin has grown a lot thicker, and yet, ouch.
  3. Not everyone wants to hear your opinion, even if you think it s a good one.  
  4. Not all parents want less homework.  I thought every parent would stand up and cheer at my decision to nearly eliminate homework, but no, some want a lot of homework for their children for various reasons.  I now encourage open dialogue on it and help out where I can.
  5. Lecturing does not engage – and neither does raising your voice and scolding the kids when they tune out.  I figured this one out after 2 years of teaching with glazed over eyes and less than enthusiastic students.  Now I look back at those two first years and shudder.
  6. Rewards diminish the learning.  I used to be a rewards fanatic but realized that kids focused more on which sticker they got then the feedback I gave them.  I also created a class divide in my room with the have’s and the have not’s.  If only I could tell all of those kids that I am sorry for what I did.
  7. When you think everything is going great, you are about to crash.  I don’t know how many times I have been on a teaching high only to crash and burn wickedly.  Life changes quickly, so enjoy the “high” while you can.
  8. Putting your thoughts on a blog means everyone wants to debate with you.  Some will cheer, some will challenge, and some will just downright criticize.  Either way, you have to take the good with the bad; it is all part of developing your voice.
  9. Even the best classroom can have a bad day.  I used to beat myself up wondering what went wrong when the day feel apart.  Then I realized that sometimes there is just nothing to do it about it that day, what matters is that you start over the next day.
  10. I am not always right, even if I really, really want to be.  I have some pretty strong opinions and fortunately for me, sometimes they change.  That means I have had to apologize to people, publicly state the change and eat crow in a number of ways.  This is a not a bad thing, but a human thing.
  11. I am not the only teacher in the room.  I thought I was the ultimate authority on everything in my room, and loved to share my vast knowledge into those empty vessels that were my kids.  What a rude awakening when I realized that my students are not blank slates.  Now I remind myself daily to step aside and let them explore and teach each other and me.  

12 thoughts on “10 + 1 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way”

  1. Hello,I am an EDM 310 student from the University of South Alabama, where Dr. Strange is my teacher. I am an Elementary Education major. I really enjoyed your blog post and I can learn a few things from your honesty. I can carry many of these valuable lessons into my future classroom.

  2. I don't agree with number 8. In fact, I completely disagree with number 8. Even if you want to leave a completely coherent response to this comment that proves I am wrong, I will still say I am right. Number 8 is definitely wrong.

  3. Thank you all for your encouraging remarks, there are so many more that I could share but these were the big ones. I relish the fact that i will continue to learn lessons, however, I do wish some of them came easier than some of these. And Will, how did I know you would cause trouble?

  4. Pernille, Thank you for sharing your personal reflection with the education community. I especially love the first one about being excited about things and other people not being as excited. I struggle with that a lot as I don't want to come across as "preachy" because not everyone is where I am, especially with technology. It's always good to know that teachers I admire are still learning and don't have it all figured out. We all make mistakes but they can serve as learning experiences if we let them. Thanks again! 🙂

  5. Is there a 'little book' with all these -ism's that I can refer to when I need a little boostering? After a full week of providing PD, I can sure use reminders that no one knows it all and no one is perfect!

  6. Hello,Along with KaShondra Rudolph, I am also in a Bachelor of Education Elementary program, however, I am taking it at the University of Victoria in British Columbia Canada. I really appreciate this post. I will definatly keep these points in mind as I start to teach. Thanks again.

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