An Open Letter to My Pre-Service and New Teacher Friends

Dear Friends,

I’ve finally learned a few important things about teaching that I’ll never let go. I wish I could have put into practice all these things from the start, but I’m offering them now to you. PLEASE spend some time reading about and considering these priorities in your classroom. And, even more importantly, if you are not willing to consider them, please get out of the field now while you are young and can still find meaningful work. We need only the best teachers for the work that needs to be done in education.

Today, I offer these four priorities:

Bring whimsy.

Laugh and invite your students to laugh. What teachers do you remember? I remember a few of the crabby teachers who made life miserable for students. I don’t think I remember the insipid teachers who didn’t care. However, I do remember many warm teachers I loved, the teachers who loved life, loved me, and were just pleasant to be around.

I was excited when I found my name on the class list of Mrs. Rhodes, the “best” first grade teacher. (Even at that age, we all knew who was best.)  To our delight, this grey-haired lady did things to surprise us and make us smile, like pulling out of the closet a giant plastic Tweetie Bird mask to wear in our Halloween parade.

I have images of Mr. Golji folded in half with laughter, snorting. I don’t remember why he laughed, but I know his love for life was contagious to us normally cynical eighth graders.

Mr. Thornburg, goofy high school business teacher, delighted in making us laugh with his quiet and silly antics.

I do know those teachers didn’t laugh at the expense of other people. They laughed with us and often at themselves.

Make your classroom a fun and safe place to be, and don’t forget to give them opportunities to laugh at you.

Recognize your colleagues.

Your fellow teachers are your colleagues. You will learn much from them. You will laugh and cry with them. Make friends with the positive ones. Don’t get bogged down with the negative ones. But work collegially with all of them.

However, you have colleagues far beyond the teachers you work with in your district. You have more colleagues than you could ever count in the wonderful world of your online Personal Learning Network. (If you haven’t met them yet, join Twitter and give it time to make connections. Twitter is not an end — it’s a means to find and get to know your friendly and helpful, yet distant, colleagues.)

Your administrators are on your team, and they are your colleagues in casting vision for what is important for students. (In my experience, administrators are not autocrats, most want to work WITH you, not above you.)

Most importantly, your students are your colleagues in learning. Work collegially with them, which is defined as “the power and authority vested equally among colleagues.” Learn WITH your students; don’t just try to give them knowledge, which brings me to the next priority…

Be chief learner.

You must be the chief learner, learning every day. Let your students see you learn. Say “I don’t know” often. Say “Let’s find out!” and “Look what I learned!” MORE often.

Do not begin to think that you have already learned enough content and teaching strategies to carry you through a career. You don’t know much. (I don’t either.)

If you do think you are done learning, please just leave teaching now. We do not need any know-it-all teachers who think professional development is a waste of their precious time.

At this critical time in education, we need lifelong learners who relish opportunities to become better at their craft and grow in their understanding of the world. If you love to learn and are never satisfied, we need you to join this precious club called education!

Find and nourish genius.

Find and nourish your students’ genius. I could write a book about this one, and many people have. Please know that all your students are lovable, capable, creative, amazing, talented, gifted geniuses. THEY. ARE. RIGHT. NOW. Each of them.

You need to get to know what makes them tick, what floats their boat, trips their trigger, tickles their fancy, flips their pancakes, razzles their berries, tosses their salad, flies their kite, sizzles their bacon, bakes their cake, lights their candle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera! (OK, I’ll stop with the bad metaphors.)

Everyone loves to learn something, and you must invite your students to learn the things they are passionate about as often as possible.

I am finally passionate and unwavering about these priorities in education, and, if you haven’t already, I pray you will study and learn these and other important educational priorities.

Here are some experts I’ve read and watched (search for them on YouTube) who have helped me grow:

What do you know? The following link came in a tweet today: Ten of the Best Ted Talks on Improving Education. So I’ll check those out later. Always, always, always learn…Please join me!


Denise Krebs

P.S. To my PLN, what other priorities have I not listed?

11 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Pre-Service and New Teacher Friends

  1. Denise, I was going to say my favorite part was “be the chief learner,” but I totally loved the “bad” metaphors you used!! I’m trying to find out what rings their bells, for sure!! Thank you for this post. I’ll be sharing it with this year’s new teachers and student teachers in our district, for sure! You’ve got a way with words – and you’re very convincing with this post.

  2. Dear Joy,
    Thank you so much for the comment and your encouraging words. I appreciate your vote of confidence.

    I can picture your kids ringing their bells as they build with cardboard, Legos, and make zip lines in your classroom!

    Thanks again,

  3. Brilliant post!

    We need more teachers who share more of themselves & their love of learning. Model their passion, humor, innovation, & kindness. Taking yourself too serious in teaching will surely lead to a difficult atmosphere in the classroom. Be prepared to constantly learn in teaching & understand we can say I don’t know but I am willing to learn. The role of teachers is changing from knowledge providers to facilitating thinking, creativity, & genius. We are doing the genius learners in our classrooms a disservice if we are not willing to educate ourselves & embrace the change that is taking place. Thank you for this post!


  4. Hugh,
    Thank you for your comments. You have said it well. You are right to point out that the role of teacher is changing, so these changes should move into all classrooms, not just new and future educators. I pray, for the sake of all the students, that teachers will be “willing to educate ourselves and embrace the change that is taking place.”

    Thank you for your support and encouragement, friend!

  5. Denise, Once again you have created a fine resources for those new to teaching, and those of us not so new! All of them are so important. I think I would emphasize “Recognize your colleagues,” only because educators (administrators, teachers, para-professionals, support staff) work so hard daily with little recognition for all they do to help kids succeed. A smile, a thank you, a tweet, a blog post to thank or recognize the work of those in our schools. And of course recognition of our students as you do with your blogs also builds a positive environment and strengthens hope. We let each other know “we matter.” I think I’d add (from your header) “Connect and Contribute: Connect with your Professional Learning Community at school and have process and place to contribute together (as you do in this blog). Connect with your Personal Learning Network in social media and contribute to the conversations and projects. Connect with a Community of Practice and contribute your reflections and refinements in teaching strategies and pedagogy. Connect and Contribute to build and maintain professional growth. Thanks for always keeping us thinking! Sheri

  6. Denise, I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I think you hit the “nail on the head” when you discussed the top priorities for teachers. Happiness is healing, helpful and brings only good to any situation. We learn from each other and must never forget this. And finally, I believe that our lives are about giving to others. Also, thanks for the great contacts! Ann

  7. Denise,

    Fantastic post, as usual! I will share it with the student teachers I am working with.
    Thank you for putting this together…you are an inspiration!

    Happy to call you my friend,

  8. Denise,

    Thank you for such a beautifully worded post. You have done a brilliant job of summing up what we all need to remember on a daily basis. As someone still fairly new to teaching, I love hearing from more experienced teachers like yourself who have such an enthusiasm for learning and building relationships with students. Thank you for emphasizing that we only need passionate, committed people in this profession! I was not truly prepared for the emotional roller coaster that is now my daily life, but there is no other place I would rather be each day. A passion for learning and laughter are definitely at the top of my list and I truly appreciate you passing on your wisdom!

    Take care,

  9. Sheri, Ann, Gallit, Beverley,
    Thank you all for your comments. I am humbled and blessed that you took the time to read and respond. I’m sorry I haven’t been engaged in this conversation. It’s been a tough week.

    Thank you,

  10. Mrs. Denise,
    I am Keiko Ito. I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your post for priorities of teaching. My most favorite priority is “Be chief learner”. I agree with you. I think educators have to keep learning to grow better as a teacher. Teachers should develop teaching skills by reviewing what they have taught. I also believe teachers’ learning helps their students get more effective teaching. Thank you for sharing your great ideas!
    Keiko Ito

    1. Dear Keiko,
      You know what’s funny, my favorite of these priorities is also “Be chief learner.” It has revolutionized my life the past two years.

      I think I mean it in a much bigger way than perhaps you understood it, according to what you say here: “Teachers should develop teaching skills by reviewing what they have taught. I also believe teachers’ learning helps their students get more effective teaching.”

      I became a better teacher when I became the chief learner in my classroom, not just because I learned new strategies for teaching or brushed up on strategies I already knew. I became more effective because I re-discovered the joy of learning again WITH my students. Now, I say things like, “What should we do next?” “What do you think will happen if we boil it?” “I don’t know how to build a killer robot with Legos, either, but I know we can learn.” I said all those things to my students just today. My life is full of joy as a learner. That’s what makes me a better teacher.

      Thanks for the comment,

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