Advice I’d Give Myself as a First Year Teacher: Part 1

In a recent series of interviews, Amy Nystrand, Program Director of the Educators’ Cooperative asked members, “What are three pieces of advice you’d give to yourself as a 1st year teacher?” and the responses were valuable reminders, no matter how long you’ve been in the profession! 

Katie Douglas, Assistant Head of School and Pre-K Teacher at Episcopal School of Nashville:

It was such a disaster.  I think mainly I would say to remember that you’re not just a teacher, but you’re also a learner. As a new teacher you think you’re gonna go in and you’re gonna get this curriculum and you’re gonna teach those kids. But remember that you’re as much a learner as a teacher.  I think I didn’t have that mindset as a first year teacher. I thought I’m just gonna go in, and I’ve got my tricks and we’re gonna do this.  But it’s okay to be as much of a learner as your students are. And then also that academic knowledge is rooted in relationships, and you really can’t be an effective teacher if you don’t work to develop relationships with your kids.  You can’t just go in there and read the teachers manual like this and expect anybody to learn anything, really.  I think also to tell a new teacher that you’re always gonna feel like you could be doing a better job.  Not even 29 years later.  Every single day I think of something I could do better, and that’s okay.  That’s part of it, that’s part of being the life-long learner that teachers are. 

Luke Johnson, 9th and 12th Grade English Teacher at Battleground Academy in Franklin:

I think one is, you never know what someone else is going through, like you never know what your kids are going through fully, so always give them the benefit of the doubt. Two, you have to mean what you say, and those two sometimes disagree.  Like one of the building blocks with my seniors is the idea of negative capability, it’s like a Keats phrase, that you have to dwell between contradictions, like you have to have two ideas that are oppositional in your head and that means you’re educated.  Those two are kind of like that, like you always give kids the benefit of the doubt, but you also have to mean what you say.  Third is, you’re lucky to get to do this, and your students are lucky to get to do this. It’s a real privilege to get to stand in front of a group of kids and purport to teach them something. When there are certainly days where you’re figuring it out yourself, and it’s really amazing for them to get to sit in a room of people who are trying to figure it out, and feel safe and feel heard and feel challenged because that’s something that not every kid gets.

The Educators’ Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. Created for teachers by teachers in 2016, EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages. EdCo aims to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the essential agency, autonomy, and common ground all teachers share. EdCo is based in Nashville, Tennessee with a reach far beyond that physical location and potential for replication in communities throughout the nation. When educators collaborate, the future of education is greater than the sum of its parts.   

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