I am reminded of an episode of the Simpsons where a teacher stands before the classroom, watching her watch and counting down. “3…2…1….Ok kids I just received tenure.” The teacher then proceeds to walk to her desk and put her feet up. Clearly this is a caricature of what it looks like for a teacher to put it in coast. I am not suggesting that this is what the majority of teachers do. However, there comes a point where we reach a level of proficiency where it might be easier to just “phone it in.”
I am approaching my 8th year as a teacher. As the years have passed the feelings that I get as the year approaches changed. As the school year approaches, I no longer awake with a feeling of anxiety that I have left something unprepared. I have shaken some of the nerves that come with preparing for a new school year. The question of basic classroom management no longer weigh heavy on my mind. My philosophies on educating children have been reaffirmed and solidified.
The one thing that has remained unshakeable is my desire to provide my students with the best quality education that I can provide. At this point in my career, it would be easy for me to rest on my laurels and decide to teach in the same way that I have in years prior. It would be easy for me to walk in each day and have the students turn to the next page in the book. At a certain point, many teachers no longer see it worth the trouble to change. They see their ability to change the system or even become a better teacher as not worthy of the time or effort. In some regards, I get it. There are so many things in this world competing with our time. One thing is for certain— I won’t phone it in. I am fully committed to continually refining and improving my practice— to taking risks in an effort to grow and better serve my students.
Our students need teachers who desire to learn and grow, just as we ask them to do each day. They need teachers who are committed to providing them with an outstanding education even when it’s difficult. The work can be challenging and it’s often far from glamorous. Teachers seldom get recognized with a spotlight or fame. The truth is— that’s not why we do it. The truly great teachers continue to put in the work regardless of recognition or praise. They do the work, not for themselves but for their students.
As your summer draws to a close and you begin thinking of the upcoming school year, remind yourself of the reason you got into teaching in the first place. One of the surest ways that we continue to enjoy our job is through continually improving on the way we teach. Think about the past year, both your successes and your failures. What are the things that you plan to change about your teaching? Are there certain lessons, activities, or strategies that you have always wanted to try, but haven’t gotten around to it? Is there something that you know you need to train yourself to stop doing?
After years of teaching, we are faced with a choice: Will we continue to grow as teachers or will we flatline? I hope that you choose the former. Our students deserve it.