Dear New Teacher,
It’s August. I’ve been thinking a lot about you.
I know you are anxiously waiting for the very first day that will commence your career in education. You are likely wondering if you are ready enough to greet the children who will soon spill through the doorway. You are not sure if your plan book is full enough, your classroom organized enough, your heart brave enough.
I want you to know that it doesn’t matter if you have one day of experience or 15 years, you will never feel completely ready to lead the young faces in front of you. I understand that the thought of being a leader while still trying to figure out how to group the desks in your new classroom may seem distant and irrelevant.
But we need you, new teacher. And whether you know it or not, you will be leading and inspiring somebody from the minute that first bell rings. Emerging leadership starts on day one.
An important thing about leadership is that it begins and ends with optimism. It must always begin with the strong belief that you can do something worth doing, and then the optimism and hope to try again when the first thing failed.
There will be failure, and joy, and a feeling like you are in way, way too far over your head. You will fall deeply, madly in love with teaching, and the next day you might want to crawl under your covers and not go back. This is the way it goes with anything that is worth doing. The key is being self-aware of that joy and disappointment, and recognizing when you need to reach out for help. This doesn’t show weakness–it shows you are human.
All teachers have bad days. What will set you apart as an emerging leader is what you do with those bad days. Will you let the obstacles define you as an educator, or will you reflect and move steadily forward? Remember, the children (and adults) around you learn immensely from how you respond to setbacks.
Don’t be afraid to eat lunch by yourself. If you feel a ripple of negativity around you, I urge you to take a step back and stand on your own two feet. There is nothing wrong with making a different choice, even if it isolates you for the moment.
Choose kindness every single time.
Collect data. You will encounter endless amounts of data, so make sure you make space for the data that will make a difference. Pay attention to your students’ struggles, motivations, interests, and what makes them laugh. Take notes and lean in to hear more. This data will tell you far more than any test score, and it will be the bridge to deep, meaningful relationships with each and every one of your students. Because teaching, like leadership, is all about relationships. You can’t move kids, adults, anyone–unless you engage their heart.
Be vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of struggle. I can tell you this –you will inspire more people by being imperfect than you ever will having all of the answers.
Continue to acknowledge-openly and regularly- that you have so much to learn. Say you don’t know. There may be educators in your building who are relearning how to do this. Be a model for what it looks like to embrace imperfection.
Continually ask yourself, “Why am I here?” Hold on tight to your why.
There will come a day (sooner than you think) when you will want to share your beliefs to move and inspire others. So hold on to your struggles, your celebrations, your imperfections. Leaders rely on stories, and your story starts right now.
Before you take on your very first day, please let me tell you this:
You are a leader. Yes, you.