1. I'm grateful to have learned that perfect planning and organization do not make you a better teacher, because if they were required, I'd be screwed. While I understand the importance of having teacher-ed students learn the old Madeline Hunter Lesson Plan Format so they consciously think about what they're doing during a lesson, I'm grateful that I don't have to outline those steps in order to be successful in the classroom on a daily basis. I'm grateful that my messy desk doesn't stop me from getting a heckuva lot of work done (and I'm efficient, too).
2. It's okay to be wrong, and be your authentic self. Kids appreciate someone who can admit mistakes, and they'll work harder for someone who's real than someone who's perfect. My students love it that I share real things with them, whether it's something embarrassing or serious. They appreciate that they know me, and it makes my job a lot easier by acknowledging my faults rather than pretending to be something I'm not.
3. No woman is an island. This might have been the hardest lesson for me. I'm solitary. I like to do my own thing. I hate (hate, hate) needing people. I don't need collaboration! I'm awesome at what I do! I know the most about writing in my building! Fine, Missy. You're the expert. Except that you do need people, and they help you to be more awesome, and knowing the most when you're the only "writing person" in your small building really doesn't mean much. I needed to seek out colleagues from the corners of the state (and internet) in order to truly acknowledge that it's not better to be alone in this profession.
4. Forgiveness is essential to survival. Kids can be cruel. So can teachers, most of the time unintentionally. It took me a few years to really be able to grasp that I have to be the bigger person when issues arise. I can't let my hurt feelings create a barrier to learning or a negative impact on the climate I create. I still might need a day (or a few) to cool off, but I'm glad I've learned that it's up to me to be the person to fix things. A boy this week sent me rude emails because he was upset that I sent him out of class to catch up on major work that was overdue (Email excerpt: "So what if I fail your stupid class. I have a bad home life."). I was ticked about the lack of respect and personal responsibility, and I stewed about it that night. I brought him in first thing the next morning to my empty room. We sat down next to each other, and we had a conversation about how having a bad home life can't be an excuse in my classroom. He and I both share the experience of having an addict for a parent. He's angry about that right now, just as I have been for most of my life. I told him that education was the way to get out. That I know home sucks, but if you really want to get beyond it you have to move past pity and bitterness and invest in yourself so you can break the cycle. He cried. I gave him Kleenex and time. We shook hands and agreed to start over. I could've spent the rest of the week being ticked about those emails, but instead I turned the bad situation in to a relationship. That kid now knows something hard about my life, and has someone who understands at least part of what he's going through. I now have a kid who feels a connection with me instead of someone who wants to fight. It's a win-win.
5. New learning is essential. It's not only not okay to be stagnant in our learning as teachers, it's also boring. I think any teacher who's stuck in a rut should look at finding professional development opportunities as a blessing instead of something we're forced to do. PD gets a bad rap because a lot of the district-mandated stuff can be a time waster (side note: think how our students feel about mandated work versus freedom of choice), but that's no excuse to stop learning. I'm so grateful that I've learned to make my learning my responsibility, and I'm proud about how much I know about my content. I'm also humbled by how much more I need to learn, and will always need to learn. It's a topic I can get pretty preachy about. I don't care. Why would you choose to be an educator if you don't appreciate the act of learning?
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.