Lessons for a New Teacher

My first year as an educator came to an end last week. In a training I attended on Saturday, one of the facilitators asked us to take a moment to consider how we would name our roles in the world of education. It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? The idea that still resonated most strongly with me is “were-sheep.” I already wrote about that, though, so you’ll have to read the old post to get caught up.

I’ve learned a lot this year that you don’t learn in the process of spinning extended metaphors, however, and I haven’t had the chance yet to look at some of those lessons to see how they compare to this ideal in my mind. Maybe you can all take a look at what I’ve learned and help me name my role. Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order:

Lesson 1: Kids will not hear you over their own ruckus if you don’t raise your voice from time to time.

Lesson 2: Most of the time it might not be a bad thing for their development if you let them run a little crazy, but if they aren’t trained to respond to you quickly under normal circumstances, they won’t respond in an emergency.

Lesson 3: Hand-clap signals are like magic, for the first week of school. Once kids figure out what they’re for, however, they’re a lot less interested in playing along.

Lesson 4: Kids who are hungry or uncomfortable have a hard time following directions and getting along with others.

Lesson 5: Sometimes giving a kid what they need most is the hardest thing to do, especially when what they need is to sit alone and cry.

Lesson 6: Every kid wants to be the hero.

Lesson 7: You have the power to give kids opportunities to be heroes.

Lesson 8: Kids do not believe that life isn’t fair, but they’ll cheat like hardened criminals.

Lesson 9: Kids are not fragile, unless they belong to someone else and you have legal responsibility for their safety.

Lesson 10: If it’s messy, kids will participate.

Lesson 11: Kids are much more likely to read if you bribe them with ice cream.

Lesson 12: The kids who most cause you to spend time banging your head against the wall are the ones that burrow deepest into your heart.

Lesson 13: They are so worth it. All of them are worth all of it.

Lesson 14: Having kids part-time works for me.

Lesson 15: Parachutes are awesome.

Lesson 16: If you don’t tether kids with inappropriate winter footwear to something out of the reach of deep snowbanks, you will spend half an hour digging a ballet shoe out of frozen snow.

Lesson 17: Kids are way more competent than you give them credit for.

Lesson 18: Kids have way less common sense than you give them credit for.

Lesson 19: Kids have much better memories than you do, so if you make them a promise, write it down. If you forget, you will hear about it for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Lesson 20: What goes up might not actually come back down until the wind blows it off a roof and a custodian finds it halfway across the school grounds.

Lesson 21: You will never find all the beads or marbles. Never.

Lesson 22: Listening is harder than talking. It’s also more useful.

I know I’ve learned many more things, some probably more important than some of what I’ve put up here. I’m fairly certain that I’ve learned more from the kids than I’ve managed to teach to them, and I hope I’ve taught them at least the beginnings of more than 22 useful lessons. Or not…

So what do you think, friends? Does anyone have a good idea about what I should call my role as an educator? I am all ears.

2 thoughts on “Lessons for a New Teacher

  1. Beautiful piece of writing, Melissa. Despite its possible religious connotation (which might take it in the wrong direction for you) I think that you are their ‘witness’. And, we all need witnesses…especially children.


  2. Great synopsis. Witness is a good comment. However as I was reading I kept labeling you as a been a discerner. It looks like you received a great education this past year. good for you.


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