What I Never Knew as a Classroom Teacher
July 7, 2019
I don’t know it all.
And I think most people would agree that they don’t, either.
But here’s the super scary thing. There’s more!
As a classroom teacher, there were so many things I didn’t know… that I didn’t know.
Nothing has made me more aware of this simple truth than my journeys in teaching on a cart, earning my masters in school administration (MSA), parenting, and interacting with my very patient professional learning network members.
These are people who encourage me, challenge me, and call me in when I make mistakes or comment out of context. When I think I know, they help me zoom out. They keep me grounded, learning, and inspired. I’m so thankful to have them in my life. Straight up, I can’t recall what professional life was like without them.
Including all of you investing time in reading my reflection right here…
What Happens Outside of My Classroom?
When I was a fifth grade classroom teacher for thirteen years, I thought I had a pretty good picture of what was going on in the whole school. However, as I later learned very quickly as a STEM Specialist on an iPad cart the very next year–I did not. In fact, I had no idea. Serving in this role literally allowed me to roll into every space on campus, including kindergarten classrooms, the cafeteria, and the playgrounds.
Until I physically moved beyond my classroom, I simply did not know that the world kept rotating and revolving outside of my own four classroom walls.
What Do Principals Do?
I also have to admit that as a classroom teacher, I had a pretty good idea of not only what my principal and assistant principal did during the day, but also what they should do to become even better. I mean, when you’re 22-years-old (or 40-years-old), you know everything. I may have even read a few leadership books, went to a few conferences, or commented in a few tweets or blogs about what administrators should be doing. I see classroom teachers express this all time, and I was right there with them. And then–those questions that may not make it into print, too:
Why wasn’t my principal more visible in the classrooms every single day? Why isn’t the assistant principal providing me feedback even more frequently? Are they really instructional leaders? Why are their doors shut sometimes? Why do they make so much more money than a classroom teacher? Do they know how hard I work as a classroom teacher?
Now halfway through my MSA journey, I’m absolutely shocked to learn about some of the things that principals do. And those are just the responsibilities–that’s not including the unexpected circumstances, variables, multiple truths, and confidential matters arising every day. After every class, project, or homework assignment, I literally come away thinking:
Wow… They do that, too? That’s unbelievable. That’s a lot. No wonder why they weren’t in my classroom every day.
I thought I was already serving in leadership roles that resembled administration. I thought I did a lot–just like a principal. But when I went to match my experiences with the North Carolina Standards for School Executives, I had a hard time in many cases. First, I was overwhelmed with the amount of practices and competencies throughout the standards, but then their breadth and impact on the whole school and community was another thing.
Until I began researching and studying some of the things principals do, I simply did not know that there was so much… that I didn’t know… as a classroom teacher and STEM Specialist. And one year into my MSA is more than enough to be humbled, all over again. I’m just beginning my internship, and I can’t wait to learn more.
How Does a Parent Feel?
As a young classroom teacher, I thought my parent-teacher conferences went really well. I thought I had great teacher-student relationships. But I didn’t see the bigger picture–because I just couldn’t at the time.
You don’t have to be a parent to be a great classroom teacher, administrator, or leader.
But until I became a parent, I didn’t know the kind of unconditional, sacrificial, heartfelt love for another human being in this way. I view parent concerns with a different lens, now.
Custodians, Coaches, and More
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Because now I’m continuing to think… What else is there that I really don’t know? How can I apply this principle throughout the education world and social media spaces?
I have no idea what it’s like to make food, serve it, and maintain a cafeteria to code. How many kids go through the hot lunch line every day?
I thought I knew what instructional coaches do, but recent conversations with my PLN reveal that I may not have it quite right. Like everything else, I’m learning that there’s a lot more to it than I first thought–especially from the classroom teacher perspective.
I see some of the things that our custodial staff members do, but what is there that I’m not seeing? And how many times do they get summoned during the day, week, or year? What happens over summer?
New Starting Lines, New Opportunities
I’m lucky, though.
I’m fortunate to be plugged in to people who have actually done these jobs, lived the experiences, and know a lot more about them than I do. I have access to them, which means I literally have thousands of learning opportunities at my fingertips.
Every question I ask is another starting line to learn something new.
As I embrace new learning opportunities, I want to approach my PLN respectfully seeking to understand, with an open mind and a humble heart, and with the mindset that there will always be things that I simply do not know that I can learn from others.
It’s through this lens that I want to continue growing and becoming better.
And I’m truly grateful to have your help, guidance, and support along the way.