Ready to Go for the 34th Time

Here I am, ready to go, in my first year of teaching (1981).

Tomorrow morning I begin my thirty-fourth and final year as a public school teacher. I’m enthusiastic, positive, focused, and ready to go. I’m not tired or burned out. Most days I’m at the top of my game, looking for new challenges, opportunities, and possibilities.

As in other years, I have these two goals for myself that can only be accomplished one student at a time:

1. Each student should have a quality literacy experience each day. That experience can take many different forms, but it needs to be excellent, and it’s my job to make it excellent.

2. Readers and writers think with certain habits and patterns. Students who are developing as lifelong readers and writers need practice forming and maintaining those behaviors and ways of thinking. That’s my other goal—laying the groundwork and providing the practice and feedback that will deepen those habits for each student.

But this year is a little different because it’s the last go-round at the school where I’ve worked for the past 27 years. With that in mind, I have three other goals.

Enjoy. I have loved this job. Every day I’m privileged to write, read, talk, and think about writing and reading and talking and thinking with exciting young people at the most interesting point of their young lives. The challenge of helping them find ways to authentically integrate literacy into their developing lives is always invigorating. I work alongside other dedicated professionals, and I communicate daily with teachers from around the world who are also energetically involved in the same work. This is a wonderful, wonderful way to earn a living, but sometimes I lose sight of that. This year the focus is on enjoying my job.

Here/Now. Smart teachers always have an eye on how they can adapt and improve their lessons, materials, and approaches for the future. I have no idea what I’ll be doing a year from now, but it’s unlikely that I’ll be using the same lessons, materials, and approaches that I’ve crafted over the last few decades. “How can I do this better?” is still a valid question, but “How should I do this next year?” is no longer a valid question for me. So, the attention will be on what I can do right now to make the most of each moment for each student I’m with. Will there be frustrations? Sure. We have some pretty hairy mandates to live through this year. They will need to be thrown overboard or at least tweaked at some point in the future. I won’t be a part of the revamping, so I’m not going to spend much time thinking about it. I still care about the school I’ve called home all these years, but those who have a direct stake in the aftermath should have the leading voices in shaping its future. I’ll be focusing on the here and now when I’m at school.

Next year. In the coming months, I need to spend time clarifying my own thinking about what to do after retiring from this job. Although I have some ideas, I need to figure out how to make them into realistic plans. Right now, I’d kind of like to work with middle schoolers, and I have the certification to do that. I’m also passionate about designing and delivering professional development for teachers at all stages of their careers, especially when it comes to literacy. I know exactly how to help schools discover their literacy programming needs and how to help them achieve their literacy goals. Can I make that passion and expertise into a viable job? I don’t know. I also have some writing projects in various stages of completion. To be honest, there are days when I just want to be finished with education. I’ve been a truck stop cook, cemetery maintenance worker, factory line worker, and a pizza maker. I’ve worked on road crews, farms, and construction sites. Some days I miss that kind of work, but I know I’m at my best and doing the most good when I’m active in a school.

I hope all you teachers reading this have your best year ever. We do noble work, and we have huge responsibilities. Help each other.

Category(s): General

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