As I reflect back on my first few years teaching, I can’t help but think I cheated my students! Not intentionally but through my ignorance and lack of experience. The teacher education program mainly focused on comparing theories of teaching. I did have a student teaching experience of almost 3 months that helped me prepare but not enough. Teacher education programs of the past didn’t expose us to practical experiences in classrooms with students that much. Today teacher preparation programs are much better preparing future teachers because they have added much more practical experience in the classroom. The bottom line is there is nothing better than experience and the changes in teacher preparation programs help prove my point.
Through the years I have heard numerous educators say the same thing. We all start out poised to help our kids learn and leave us prepared for the next level. Did I do anything wrong? No… I don’t think so. Teaching is an art which takes years to craft. Some might ask the question-how long does it take to arrive? Since the target (new students every year) is always changing, all we can do is build our knowledge each year better equipped to prepare the next group of students. I really like the proverbial tool belt analogy. An effective teacher learns over time best practices/strategies and knows the right time to pull out those (tools) strategies to help students learn. Are you adding “tools” to your tool belt?
The key to success is getting to know your students. Getting to know them personally and reviewing all their achievement data. Once determined and analyzed, teachers can create engaging learning experiences at the appropriate level. When we meet students where they are, learning occurs at higher levels!
As a veteran principal of 10 years, I am still learning how to be an effective leader. With training, experience and networking with other leaders, I am continuously learning how to manage instruction and manage a school. Through the years I have made mistakes but admitted them and learned from it. As an assistant principal for four years, I observed my principal to learn from her. Since she was a first year principal with little training, baptism by fire rings a bell! Because she had great people skills and a lot of common sense, she was able to survive the first year and become a very effective leader. Actually she is now a successful superintendent.
As a naive person, I thought I was ready to be a principal after four years as an assistant principal. Looking back, I was wrong! If I had some training as an assistant principal or a mentor, I would have been better prepared. After assuming the principal role, I quickly learned it was very different because the buck stopped with me. I was the person everyone looked to for leadership and guidance.
The point I am making is training for every role in education from teacher to a leadership role is very important. Don’t get in a rush to assume a new role without proper preparation or training. On the job training is part of the process but striking a balance between training and on the job training is critical to your success.