January 31, 2019 was my 1000th day as a teacher. What an absolutely incredible day it was. I realized that it was my 1000th day by accident. We were planning for the 100th day of school, and my third graders were saying how much they loved the hundredth day. Some of them started in PreK-3, and the tradition is that you celebrate 100 days of learning in your grade. Well, if there are 180 days in a school year, and they started in PreK-3... that means their 100th day of school in third grade is their 1000th day of school, overall! Then, I started counting backwards... and of course, it was my 1000th day as well.
We made crowns, we did 100 jumping jacks, did 100 seconds of mindfulness, and had an incredible day together celebrating all that we have learned. After the 3rd graders and I had our day, I traveled across town to teach my adult learners. We discussed lesson planning, and the concept of Backwards Design. It was the best day ever.
After a full day of teaching and learning, I was driving home and called my mom to share with her the incredible parts of the day. It feels good to feel good, and having a mother who passionately taught for 27+ years to reflect with, is the perfect way to end most days (good or bad).
Through our conversation, and conversations over the past 1000 days of teaching, I came up with a list of the top 10 lessons I have learned in this career. Going from a preschool in a church basement, to a fifth grade room overlooking a cow field, to a preparatory school in Kenya, to inner-city Washington DC, I have seen, heard, and learned a lot.
I like this list. I wonder how it will change over my next 1000 days.
1. Teachers make some of the most fantastic friends.
They get you, they support you, and they are your biggest cheerleaders. People who work in your classroom learn the ins and outs of your brain. I would not be the teacher I am today without my teacher friends - they understand me deeply, and I appreciate the feeling of 'being known.'
2. Teaching is deeply personal to some people.
And for others, it is just a job.
I am still working on not taking this personally, or taking offense in this. I was raised by a health teacher who would tell every person she met that she was a teacher. It was just a core part of her identity. I never understood that until I stepped into the classroom. Teacher is a part of my identity; it is how I introduce myself, it shapes how I talk to others, and how I interact with the world. This lesson is just something I keep in my mind, because when you step into someones classroom, you could be stepping into the proudest moments of their life. Treat people's classrooms like their most precious and sacred space - they very well could be.
3. Teaching is a political act, a form of community service, and a platform for empowerment.
In an interview with Josè Louis Vilson, he stated, "How we choose to speak, who we choose or allow to speak in our classrooms, is a choice between speaking life or speaking death to our students."
Our job is not to be taken lightly. We may be seen as "losers," to some, but we know the responsibility we hold. We know.
4. Nothing is about me.
Take nothing personally.
The book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has changed my life, and perspective.
I have to tell myself this every single day.
5. Data is one point of information.
A test is one moment. A quiz is a snapshot. It is not the end all be all. Reflect, reteach, and move on.
6. It matters whether or not your students feel loved.
Observe Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Love matters.
7. Stating things factually allows people to make their own interpretations. You cannot control anyone else’s interpretation of yourself, events, or information. See the facts, and let them make up their minds.
I cannot control anyone except myself.
8. Find your team, and find every opportunity to learn from them.
9. Listen to the children and let their eyes light up. It is the coolest thing ever.
10. If you’re wondering if you should go over the top, then you should do it. It matters to them.