Hello, friends! I am in my eighth year of teaching secondary vocal music, and this is my inaugural plunge into the world of edu-blogging. I have thought several times about blogging, but I always balked because I wasn’t sure I had anything new or valuable to add to the conversation. I know less now than I thought I did ten years ago as a brand-new teacher, so why not leave the blogging to the experts with more experience in my field? Still, some of my thoughts and experiences continued to nag me to be shared. I asked myself what my purpose would be in adding my voice to the education conversation.
- Encourage new teachers to enter the profession. There’s a lot of negativity out there surrounding our profession, especially in this hyper-critical society where social networks can erupt into digital battlegrounds over every issue imaginable, including education. But I truly believe that for every news piece exposing bad teachers or failing schools, there are dozens of success stories in public education existing quietly under the radar. Teaching is a calling. There is very little glory in it. Everybody knows there’s no money in it. But if you are truly called to the profession, there is a lot of fulfillment in it.
- Encourage gifted teachers to stay in the profession. It is estimated that the percentage of teachers leaving the profession within their first five years is as high as 50% (http://all4ed.org/press/teacher-attrition-costs-united-states-up-to-2-2-billion-annually-says-new-alliance-report/). Most are leaving because of low pay, poor working conditions, or lack of respect for the profession. I’ll admit, I almost quit after my first year. Were it not for the encouragement of family and particularly veteran teachers, I might have quit teaching altogether. This further illustrates the importance of mentoring when it comes to sustaining the flow of confident teachers into the profession. We need to be telling our young teachers that while it doesn’t get easier, it certainly gets better, and that we are here to help them navigate those first challenging years.
- Encourage an atmosphere of collaboration. Experienced teachers know that our best ideas are usually not our own. More often than not, our most successful activities, lesson plans, projects, etc. are taken from other teachers in part or in whole. Sure, sometimes we put our own “spin” on the idea, or adjust for differences in student ability or grade level, but a lot of what we do has been done in some shape or form before. Much of what we accomplish is born through a process of collaboration, examination, adjustment and rebirth. Contrary to the corporate world, this kind of occupational pirating is acceptable and even encouraged in the teaching profession. I consider it one of the highest compliments for a fellow educator to utilize one of my techniques (which I probably stole…err…borrowed from another educator, anyway). We all (well, most of us) play nice in this sandbox.
I realize that sometimes these things evolve into something else, but at least there’s a jumping-off point. I’m willing to see where this goes. Care to come along with me?