Letters to a Young Teacher: Part 3

I recently took the time to read the book Letters to a Young Teacher, and I truly wish I read this as I was entering the teaching profession shortly after graduation.  There are so many gems of wisdom and encouragement and hope and inspiration sprinkled throughout this book.  This week I’ll be sharing a few of these.

Early on in this book, Jonathan makes it clear that there are very few “super-teachers” whose stories are made for TV and whose mere touch turns things to gold.  Teaching is by no means glorious.  When I read about the high attrition rates in the field of education, and my own experience with just six years working on the “front lines”, I think it is easy to hear such stories and feel discouraged.  True change and growth takes time, and often comes only in small glimpses.  As a new teacher, it is hard not to compare ourselves to the teacher across the hall, let alone the teacher whose story has catapulted them to national or international success.  It is important to keep things in perspective.  In fact, in the final chapter of the book, Francesca herself writes as if trying to leave utterly clear the reality of the classroom:

“I went through a time when I felt very vulnerable, and fallible, and I think you need to make this clear because all teachers will go through these periods of insecurity, and they’ll recognize when they have made mistakes and temporarily may lose their confidence.  If you leave this out, it gives the incorrect impression that I was, right from the starting gate, one of those ‘super-teachers’ that we used to joke about who allegedly turn everything they touch to gold.  We both know that that wasn’t so.  It’s never so. … beginning teachers need to know this, so they won’t berate themselves too much when things go wrong but will accept their imperfections, take a little time to rethink what they have been doing, then move on…” (246-247)

Let us not give up, let us not dwell on our imperfections or shortcomings, but instead give ourselves time to rethink what we have been doing, and then simply move on.

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