Education Opinion

... this is only the beginning

By Jessica Shyu — September 22, 2008 1 min read
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At the end of a meeting today with a first-year teacher, she turned to me and nervously asked, “Do you think it’s still possible at this point in the year for me to get my students to reach really great gains?”

Like so many others, it hasn’t been an easy ride so far for “Mary”, a high school inclusion teacher. She teaches at a disorganized school and has struggled to understand her multiple science courses, was desperate to learn new ways to manage her classes, and had to figure out how to effectively plan with her co-teachers so her students would receive the best instruction. But in the past two weeks, she has plowed through, built relationships and enacted more changes than some teachers manage in a full school year. It’s a tough job, but that’s why she’s here and it’s amazing to see her energy and resilience.

So I was a bit dumbfounded and amused when she asked her question. In my mind, there was absolutely no doubt she was going to make great gains-- not just because that is what we’re here to do, but also because of the way she’s taught and motivated her co-teachers to effectively backwards plan at the daily lesson level and the way she’s been researching teaching strategies for her various classes. But I had to hold back my smile and be grateful for her sense of urgency to improve her skills. She’s hard on herself and is afraid that if she screws up early on, there’s no hope for the rest of the year. She (and all new teachers) need to realize that this is only the beginning. There is always something we need to improve because there is always hope for a student to get better, even if it’s mid-May.

“It is never too late to get your students to reach great gains and you will get them there. There’s a lot to do between here and there, but you’re on a good path and that’s why we’re doing it together. This is just the beginning.”

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