7 Notes for Teachers

It's that time of year again in New York - the start of school.

And while l do not find myself in a traditional classroom setting this year, I still feel like it's the start of a new year, and perhaps that's because it is. It's a new chance to learn, to grow, to fail, to flourish, to dig deeper into the person you're becoming - whether you're the student or the teacher.

Fellow educators, I think about you often. 

And while I have plenty of words to write about my students, I find myself always coming back to writing you notes at the start of each and every school year - eager to share the tidbits that have kept me going strong and happy from the first day of school until the last.

You're the one who gets to inspire a child and/or a teenager to become better than they were yesterday. Everyday you step foot into that classroom, you have the ability to show them how to bring their best self to the world. It's a huge responsibility. Embrace it.

Embrace the differences of the day - especially when those lesson plans go awry. You're teaching humans, not robots, and sometimes things don't go as planned. It's part of the gig. But if you don't deal with whatever crisis happens to be disrupting that perfect plan, nobody will retain the information you're trying to teach. 

Teaching is a superpower. And it's probably one of the most undervalued professions in our country. But know that I see you. I value you. And so do your students - even in the moments when it seems like they would rather be anywhere else, know that if you love what you're doing, and love teaching, they'll remember that for the rest of their lives. My favorite teacher in high school was Dr. Figuerido. She was my biology teacher. I have a career that has absolutely nothing to do with biology. But she made an impression upon me, as a student, and as a human that I'll never forget - and I graduated high school quite a number of years ago. Brilliant teaching transcends time.

It never feels like there's enough time - and you're not alone in that. Not enough time to prep them for a test. Not enough time get them ready for a show. Or a game. Not enough time to work all day and night and then go home and whip up a healthy dinner. Not enough time to spend with your loved ones, and grade papers, and prepare, and still get at least six hours of sleep. So often people quip about finding the work/life balance - and you know what? Maybe that's the problem - we tell  ourselves that each day has to be perfectly balanced with the perfect amount of work and the perfect amount of life, and then beat ourselves up when that doesn't happen. Sometimes days are perfectly balanced - and then there are days when the scale tips one way or another. Sometimes days are filled with more work than your brain can handle, and putting anything else onto your plate will set you over the edge. So, I say, stop filling the plate. Take a breath. Reach for your favorite take out menu, and cut yourself a break. Each month of the school year will bring a different season - embrace the season in which you're in.

With each season of the year will come new obstacles, new successes, new hurdles to jump. When you let yourself lean into those changes you'll remember that the ever changing days are one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of this job. 

You hold one of the most important jobs society has - you're a teacher. And when the days seem like they're never ending, and when you feel like you're not doing a good job, and when you get frustrated about the millions of things that go wrong on any given day in a classroom, know that if just one kid goes home at the end of the day, smiling because of something you said, energized because of something you taught - well, that's a success.

Success in your classroom is not about good test scores. Success is in the moments of discussion where you see the lightbulbs go off - it's the times when the students have discussions amongst themselves, and you can sit back and watch them engage with one another like respectful, intelligent, empathetic young adults. It's the moments when you see your students grow into the people they are becoming, when they become keenly aware of the world around them, and want to do their part in making it better in whatever way they know how.