We are all first-year teachers
We all remember the wonderfully chaotic process of discovery – equal parts stressful and satisfying – that was our first year of teaching. I remember the little things: smelling freshly sharpened pencils, setting up my own gradebook, staying after school to decorate a bulletin board or writing (and inevitably rewriting) a first-day welcome message to students on the whiteboard. As teachers, we also recall the anxiety of wondering if we were getting it right, eventually followed by the exhilaration of seeing that we were making a difference with one student, or one family.
I’ve heard from many teachers that this school year feels like starting over again. And in a way, we are. We are figuring out the best way to toggle through gallery views on Zoom, or maybe we are trying to map out an end of the day cleanup routine that can still keep students six feet apart, or perhaps we are asking ourselves whether automatically muting students who join the virtual classroom makes them feel less nervous - or less welcome. We are all asking, and trying to answer, really important questions. And it feels like we are all first-year teachers.
If we could have a conversation with our first-year teaching self, what advice would we give? We might start by saying it’s OK not to be perfect, so be kind to yourself. We might also acknowledge that teaching is hard work – requiring our hands, our head and our heart – so we should take care of ourselves. And we’d probably suggest that asking colleagues for help is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness. And finally, we might also explain that students notice. They hear what we say, and more importantly how we say it. They notice how we react when things don’t go well, and how we adapt when we encounter difficult situations. This year, students are surely paying attention to how the adults around them react to the global health crisis, economic challenges and new ways of teaching and learning. And they notice their teachers modeling patience, and grace, and honesty – bravely leading them through new ways of learning.
At WIDA, we continue to be humbled by the learning that teachers are doing around the world, and we are grateful for the generous insights that educators have shared: in our online courses, on social media, and in the emails we receive. In this newsletter, we share more Voices from the Field, based on our global community of practice. We also share new resources from WIDA on translanguaging and using WIDA All Year Long. We recognize the tremendous amount of renewing, adapting and growing that teachers are doing, and we feel fortunate to be part of it.
Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA international programs director
*Sanskrit: I bow to you