I began my career in education teaching first grade in an inner city school, one with the highest poverty in district, Mamie Brosnan Elementary. Many of my students had never attended kindergarten and some had never learned to cut with scissors or hold pencils. Almost every child in the school lived in the housing projects that surrounded the school. I was fortunate to have a para-professional. Like me, it was her first year as an educator. Although she did not have a degree in education, she had an understanding of the growth and development of young children as the mother of two young children. She was eager to learn about "teaching school" and was a very hard worker. We were a great team. I loved working with her. Many of our experiences during that first year laid the foundation for my career. At the time, I had no idea how much the year would serve to shape my career. There are many experiences from that year that I want to share...therefore, I have created a series of posts related to this topic.
My classroom was located across from the office. The principal came into my room regularly....mostly just to say hello, and to check to see how things were going, but often times, he would ask my opinion on things he was pondering or wanting to accomplish. I remember how important he made me feel by asking me, a first year teacher, what I thought...as if I knew something! Whether I knew anything at all about the issues that he was dealing with, really didn't matter. What mattered and what I learned from this was how important it makes someone feel when you ask their opinion....and how important it is to visit classrooms often...because it is within these drop by visits and through these informal conversations that relationships are formed...trust is built...confidence is gained and the seeds of teacher leadership are planted. It shows that you care and there is nothing more important than caring.
Today, as I reflect on how much I appreciated the principal asking my opinion, my thoughts, and my ideas, I am reminded that it's not just young, first year teachers who appreciate this opportunity for input, but all people appreciate this. I'm also reminded that our students appreciate this opportunity too. As the school year approaches, try to find out what your students are interested in, what their passions are.....ask their opinion about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.....then try to teach the concepts they have to learn through their interests. Show you care and they will learn.