Once upon a time, I was a new teacher.
Thrown into a classroom with little support, it was baptism by fire.
I leaned hard on a mentor who stubbornly refused to let me fail.
And on the other new teachers at my school—young and idealistic like me.
Two of those young, idealistic teachers got “promoted” to administrative jobs this year.
Jobs at which they will undoubtedly be fabulous.
Because I am too competitive, this gave me pause.
Should I be working harder toward upward mobility in my field?
The truth is (at least for now), the classroom is my happy place.
It’s a place where I work alongside little people to make magic happen.
I am a good teacher.
I know this.
Much better than I was in those baptism by fire years.
Sometimes people ask me about my secret.
There’s one thing, I think, that sets the truly great teachers apart.
I have not mastered it, exactly, but it is my number one goal this year.
And every year.
Truly great teachers care about kids and make them believe it.
With some kids, this is easy.
They come to school wide-eyed and ready to learn.
They don’t make waves.
They know how it feels to be cared about and they hang on your every word.
But the truly great teachers sweep the edges,
Nudging the ones who have been taught by life not to care.
Chipping away at hard exteriors, seeing leadership where others see defiance.
Paying attention, remembering hard what catches their attention, even for a second.
And mentioning it.
Casually, casually, so as to not make a fuss.
The truly great teachers lose sleep over this.
Plotting and scheming and never giving up.
Because they know that when content knowledge and pedagogy and the best of behavior management strategies fail, relationships don’t.
Truly great teachers don’t teach math or kindergarten or PE.
Truly great teachers teach children.
Every single one of them.