Our school was fortunate to have three student teachers join us this semester to learn from dedicated teachers. This past week marked the end of their time with us, and the end of student teaching for many future educators getting ready to enter the profession. As they move forward to start their journey, I wanted to share some advice with them. And so I gave them a copy of The Secret Sauce about my journey as an educator. Below is an excerpt from The Secret Sauce: Essential Ingredients for Exceptional Teaching. It describes how I began my own teaching career, not prepared for what was to come!
When I started teaching, my principal handed me a guide outlining all of my district’s policies and a book laying out all of the procedural logistics to make me-supposedly-an effective teacher. The book she gave me had more than three hundred pages of instructions for the first few days of school, days certain to determine my success or failure for the remainder of the school year. If I simply put forth my best effort in those first few days, I would achieve a successful first year in the classroom. Or so I was led to believe.
Reading through the policy guide and instruction book felt overwhelming, at best. At worst, it simply rehashed the ground that had been covered in my education prep courses.
In hindsight, I realize that there are so many things about teaching no one ever told me. Certainly no one ever handed me the “secret sauce” of teaching.
I often wondered if such a “secret sauce” even existed. I frequently asked myself, Will I ever be good at this? Or at least somewhat decent? I struggled in the grandest sense of the word. On top of that, the advice and rules for teaching I was given were poorly stated and confusing:
- Don’t smile until Christmas.
- Don’t be a child’s friend; they already have enough friends.
- Students who face the board learn more.
- Running an effective classroom is like running a restaurant; you need to manage students.
- Effective teachers don’t make mistakes.
I had so many questions about these so-called “rules for teaching.” Why wasn’t I allowed to smile? Wouldn’t this show the kids I liked them and was generally a pleasant person? Don’t some students need a friend? What is so powerful about the board? No mistakes? A restaurant manager? I didn’t know anything about managing a restaurant. These rules didn’t help me at all!
A teacher’s job may be challenging because each student has their own personality and way of responding to instructions. Having said that, it took me a long time to figure out how to be an effective teacher. In the process, I learned the hard way:
- I made mistake upon mistake before I figured something out.
- I learned from some great colleagues-and from some not-so-great ones.
- I attempted to watch, listen, and learn from other teachers as much as I could.
- I watched others make the same mistakes I did.
- I visited other classrooms and let colleagues visit my classroom.
- I accepted feedback from others, sometimes begrudgingly.
- I occasionally realized parents knew their children much better than I did.
With a great deal of patience and perseverance, and the occasional humble pie, I did all of these things, and I became a better educator. And guess what? Eventually I figured out a “secret sauce” to teaching did, in fact, exist. Now I’m passing it on to you in this book. Yes, it involves hard work. Yes, you will face peaks and valleys. Yes, you will struggle at times. You will be rewarded, however, by making a difference in the life of a child. Using the SECRET SAUCE can make you an exceptional educator.
Click here to purchase The Secret Sauce: Essential Ingredients for Exceptional Teaching. Pick up a copy today for a new teacher or someone about to join the profession. Let’s give them the start that I didn’t have!