CONFESSION: My first day teaching was nearly my first day teaching ever.
My only prior experience was substituting at a variety of schools, levels, and classes for one semester and a four-week stint as clerical support for summer school running queries and assisting with grade books.
So, when I walked into pre-planning that late July, I was expertly adept in SASIxp, classroomXP, and Integrade Pro, but other than speaking the language I was going to teach, I knew little about how to teach in general, much less how to teach the subject itself.
I realized that if I wanted truly to be effective in my role, I had to learn as much as possible, and I had to learn as an apprentice from the masters in the field. So, I embraced my lack of experience and asked for help openly.
As most educators know well, teaching is so much more than what content to deliver when. I realized that fact from my one semester as a substitute. When I asked for help, I did not ask for worksheets, unit guides, or lesson plan ideas. Instead, I asked for something more–
I needed to know the ephemeral pieces of knowledge you couldn’t get from a Google search: the good and bad experiences, the mishaps, the wins, the “dear lord, don’t ever do this!” things and the “if you do anything, you must do this” things.
I specifically asked for stories—distinctive tales from the classroom/school and the why and how behind what an educator does each day.
In the post photo above, is one of those “MUST DO!!!” things someone shared with me: Using kinesthetic learning via a Patty Cake game to memorize the Spanish pronouns and help students practice verb conjugations.
I ended up needing to stay until 10:00PM each night to complete the pre-planning paperwork as my days were filled with asking for and listening to stories. (School buildings are creepily quiet at night, incidentally. I played the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice on VHS in my classroom for background noise). The extra time and late nights were worth it.
My 1st semester teaching went as well as it did, and set a foundation for me as the passionate educator I have become, because I sought out and listened to roughly 35 individuals and their stories from the field.
Each story was unique from the others yet just as informative, illuminating, and illustrative. And most of these stories I would not have heard otherwise from educators who had never thought to share their stories before. Why would they think of doing so, anyhow, when educators at all levels work behind closed doors under the crunch of testing calendars and grading and paperwork?
To this day, I habitually seek to know someone’s story in education. I’m continually learning from my peers and am enabled to better meet their needs, solve their problems, and support their innovations. I also receive constant inspiration and motivation, and, in return, I deeply enjoy learning with them, encouraging them, and lifting their voices (teachers never give themselves enough credit!).
But it took some close brushes with death–and the thought of my voice being silenced forever–for me to realize I am guilty of keeping my own stories quiet. In fact, I’m doubly guilty. Serving as a leader in education, I expound upon the need for us to have transparency and authenticity in what we do. Sharing your story is one of the absolute best ways to imbue your practice with these things.
Yet, here I am, in my eleventh year in education and catching myself thinking “I should share that” often throughout the week but never actually sharing.
So, in an effort to practice what I preach, I will be sharing my stories here on this blog. Even though I find writing non-professionally to be challenging.
CONFESSION: Writing personal prose and stories has been a gigantic struggle for me since one specific day in my 8th Grade Language Arts class.
But that’s a story for another time!