Stop Saying This Phrase Right Now
As a coach, I hear an all-too common refrain from teachers the first semester of the year. It’s said by both new and experienced teachers alike, although it may be a little more prevalent with new teachers in their first couple of years.
And it boggles my mind, because it’s completely crazy. It’s the phrase:
I should already know this.
This boggles my mind for soooo many reasons:
- College can only teach you so much…so time is usually spent on educational theory, learning how to plan lessons, and the foundations of the subject areas. There’s maybe a course or two about more specialized things…reading instruction, differentiation, assessment, or classroom management. But all they can ever do, really, is scratch the surface. It’s never enough.
- The best way to learn is through experience. Lots and lots and lots of experience. Each year brings new challenges, and we learn through the cumulative experience of all of them. This is true of every profession, and especially ours.
- Every subject area is full of a TON of content. We have to figure out not only what that content is, but also how it all flows and connects. We have to figure out what prerequisite skills students must have in order to be successful with the new content, how to check for understanding, how to assess, and how to adjust our teaching. Did I mention that this is In EVERY subject?
- Education thought leaders are always learning more. With literacy in particular, there are CONSTANT changes in thinking, lots of arguments, and a plethora of new research to consider. It’s enough to make your head spin.
- There are always new professional books that catch our eye, new ideas we might see on social media we want to try, a thought-provoking new podcast, and even a great idea from the teacher next store that gets you excited. ALL of these things lead us to new learning.
- If you switch grade levels or schools, it’s like you’re starting all over. No matter how experienced you are.
- Every year, we grow. It’s true that the more you learn, the more you need to figure out and be curious about. This is why, over 20 years in, I’m still trying to figure things out.
- Every class is different. What worked before may or may not work again. Teachers continuously must add tools to their toolbelt. This was true before the pandemic, and it’s even more true after it.
- There’s just SO MUCH. I talk about this in another post, and give ideas for managing it. In literacy, there are considerations for instruction, assessment, standards, learning targets, lesson design and delivery, whole and small group instruction…and that is ONE subject area. There’s also lunch count, recess arguments, parent emails and communication, observations…really an endless list. It can take years to figure out how to get all those plates spinning smoothly in the air.
- New and/or different administrators will bring new initiatives and new things to learn. They are there to push us to do our very best for kids, but often, there’s a learning curve that comes with it.
So here’s the deal.
Steve Barkley, longtime education guru and coach, says that “there is no apex to teaching.” He’s right–and he’s well into his 70’s! No single teacher can ever know everything.
No one can possibly “already know this” right away. I’m proud to say that even as long as I’ve been in education, I still have soooo much more to learn. I don’t find that shameful; I find it exciting. Learning is what keeps us fresh, adds excitement to our day, and helps us better reach our students’ needs. Learning keeps us from staying stuck.
Please– don’t think you should already know this. That’s an impossible and unfair expectation, and thinking that way will only cause anxiety and overwhelm. Instead, embrace the opportunity to learn. Read. Work with your coach. Seek guidance from your administrators. Subscribe to a podcast. Peek into what’s happening in your own school’s classrooms. Better yet–try all of the above! You’ll be amazed at what yo can do with the support of others.
Change the refrain:
Shift from I should already know this to I don’t know this yet…but I’m excited to learn it.
Change that refrain, and your entire outlook will change, for the better.
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