A brief thought on the cusp of a new year:
Our job as educators is to actively work at getting better. If you are a classroom teacher, like me, and your job is to cause learning, but you aren’t actively searching for ways to better cause that learning, then you aren’t really doing your job. If you are an administrator and your job is to help support teachers cause learning, but you aren’t actively searching for ways to help those teachers, then you aren’t really doing your job.
After a decade in the profession, I feel like there are really just two types of teachers: One wants to learn. The other believes she knows all she needs to know. One is generally optimistic about learning. The other is generally cynical. One never finds enough time in the day to accomplish all he wants to, but he still finds the time to meet with a concerned parent, write that college recommendation letter, chat with a teary student about her grade, and sit down with a colleague to discuss the best way to assess an upcoming project. The other just doesn’t have the time. One asks for feedback from students, parents, and colleagues. The other shuts his door and eschews it. One welcomes working in teams to design and assess student assessments so that they are as fair and well-rounded as can be. The other designs alone, needing to have the sole input. One tries a new task or approach in class, reassesses, and tries again. The other is forced to try a new approach in class and then goes back to her tried and true way of doing things. One gives feedback many times, in multiple ways, with both low and high stakes. The other gives a grade. One aims to cause learning. The other is trying to cover all the content by June.
Yes, it takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and effort to be the first kind of teacher — it’s true. But that’s your job. Really. And I truly believe that if you aren’t actively working to be better at it — questioning your methods, challenging yourself, seeking feedback — then you simply aren’t doing your job. You’re just a body in a chair but not really an educator, not really someone whose job it is to cause learning.
Every teacher and administrator should take the opportunity of the New Year to make a resolution that he will use every work day as an opportunity to grow and be better at his job; that she will actively seek multiple forms of feedback on how she’s doing that job; and that he will cast off the fear of change and honest feedback and embrace the rocky road of self-improvement. This is what it means to be a professional educator.
May 2013 bring wonderful things to you and education the world over.