3 Trips across my state (and back)
3 Speeches to graduates
Once May of 2017 hit, it never stopped with its endless barrage of appointments, events, and celebrations, not to mention the parties, ceremonies, recitals, and assemblies that come with parenthood at the end of a school year. The chaos, though, was full of rich lessons just waiting to be learned.
- The high school Class of 2017 is grateful.
Overwhelmingly, the sentiment expressed by my high school grads was that of gratitude. In an era where the emphasis of education is shifting towards caring for students’ social, emotional, and basic needs above all else, our students are recognizing our efforts. Sure, it may be a messy transition. Yes, we still have teachers who are drilling it and killing it, or so they think, but the students with whom I spoke noted that at least half of their teachers truly cared about them as people. With this gratitude also comes a small but real sense of dread. Our seniors are more cognizant than ever that the world will not be as loving or forgiving as their teachers were. This means that we have to work harder than ever to foster skills like perseverance and bravery in the face of adversity.
- Teacher preparation programs are making students’ needs the priority.
After speaking to two different groups of education graduates, I learned that teacher preparation programs have fully embraced this renewed focus on students’ social, emotional, and basic needs. I was fortunate to get to hear a few graduates talk about their internships. They all told stories (stories!) of their individual students with their individual issues. The constant thread throughout the stories was that the students’ passions, talents, and abilities led to richer, more personalized learning for themselves, the teachers, and the other students in the class.
- Our new teachers are prepared for the challenges ahead. When I talk to people who are about to walk into a classroom and realize, “Oh, right, I AM the teacher,” I like to talk about what challenges to expect. The last two groups I spoke to were not surprised at all; this was no news to them. In my humble opinion, this is a huge win for teacher preparation programs. The more teachers enter the work force with a clear understanding of all of the challenges and all of the expectations, the more teachers we will retain. What surprised me, though, was that they all needed help figuring out how to find joy in the occupation, beyond just loving our students (because, let’s face it, sometimes even our little angels wear us down). This also happens to be another favorite topic of mine, because there truly is so much to love about being a teacher (I have my own desk, my own computer, and my own comfy desk chair, just to name a few!). But it is also indicative of the virus that affects veterans in the profession. We have to stop tearing apart our profession, and we have to start spreading the good news of the great joy we find in our day-to-day work. We owe it to the students to attract the best-of-the-best to the teaching profession, and we’re never going to be able to do that if we don’t tell the full story about how rewarding teaching is.
- There is hope for the future of education. The people who are choosing teaching as a profession are amazing, loving, compassionate humans. They are in this for the long haul; they’re in it for the learning, the collaboration, the betterment of society. Most of all, they are in it for the kids. I don’t think that those who are “just in it for the check” are hanging around very long in our teacher preparation programs. The universities have found a way to convey the selflessness required of an effective teacher, and the pay off for our students will be magnificent.