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?