I just read an article that really built that fire within me! Full of great advice, it reminded me how important reflection, refreshing oneself, and passion are for us, as educators. If you think about the teachers that really made a difference in your life OR those that you work with or know whose classrooms you just love to visit, this is why! They are (or were) reflective and passionate. Those two qualities bring with them so many more positive attributes. These are the lifelong learners who are always striving to improve their professional practice!
Age is no predictor – I once worked with (I was a beginning teacher) a teacher who had been at the same school for over 30 years. He wasn’t burnt out. He regularly ‘refreshed’ (that was what summers were for, he said). He was recognized by students, parents and faculty as the most dynamic teacher at the school – even after 30 years of service. When you walked into his classroom, he was excited about each lesson he guided students through. He was thirsty for knowledge, loved trying new things and was incredibly humble! I know he would’ve agreed that each of these 10 suggestions are essential to ‘stay fresh’:
1. Get to know your assessments.
How are they linked to learning goals and standardized assessments? You might be teaching something that isn’t that interesting nor really something the students NEED to know. Take a look at what the essential goals are and make sure you’re squarely focused on them… you might surprise yourself.
2. Unpack your standards.
Here are 3 important questions to ask for each standard:
What thinking process does the standard demand?
What thinking skills will best help students develop that thinking process?
What content and skills will students need to learn?
This will help you plan more interesting lessons while getting students to ‘go deep’ on the learning.
3. Understand your own why.
How would you answer, “Why are you teaching this?” Can you find a good reason that you are personally connected to and fired-up about? See if you can, it will also spark that passion for learning in your students!
4. Collect things that interest you.
This is pretty self-explanatory. There’s no doubt that ‘realia’ is far more engaging than ‘sit & giit’ lectures – especially if you have a personal connection to it and can make a story about it (ask me about the wadding and shot I use to use when teaching about the Revolutionary War or my Dad’s coupon ration booklet from WWII…).
5. Read outside the field of education.
It’s amazing how refreshing it can be to read a novel or piece of non-fiction unrelated to education… and, then find yourself making connections back to what you teach without realizing it. Those are the best connections!
6. Be reflective.
One of the most valuable things teachers can do is reflect on their practice. And yet our lives are so hectic during the school year that we rarely have time to just sit and think about teaching.
Spend some time this summer reflecting on this past school year. What worked? What didn’t? What do you need to cut? What do you need to add? What skills do you need to develop to be more effective? I also like to reflect on who I am as a teacher and how I can make my teaching style more accessible to my students….Rather than trying to make yourself into someone else’s idea of a good teacher, spend time reflecting on who you are and how you can give your students the best possible version of yourself this coming school year.
I can’t say it any better than Robyn Jackson (above).
7. Shadow someone.
Self-explanatory (again) but Jackson makes the point that it can be very enlightening to shadow someone in an area outside education, as well. We can learn from ANYONE!
8. Learn your teacher evaluation instrument.
Think about what an exemplar teacher could look like (using your school’s criteria). Be it.
9. Write your assessments.
Ok… maybe not what you were thinking of spending your time on. How else can you REALLY get to know your curriculum, though? This will definitely keep you focused. Be creative!
10. Spend time not thinking about teaching.
Try to enjoy the time that you have off – focused on other interests. This will REALLY refresh you and will give you beautiful memories to tap into at those difficult moments! Life is too short to NOT spend some time enjoying the smaller things (sunsets, ocean breezes, a hard workout the company of loved ones and children’s laughter – hopefully my own! – are a few things I treasure).