Teaching Profession

A Teacher Advises Colleagues: Find a School Where You Can Be a ‘Magician’

By Williamena Kwapo — July 29, 2022 2 min read
Patrick Harris
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Patrick Harris remembered always wanting to be a teacher. He viewed his very first teacher as a “magician” who built a positive relationship with students and opened the world to him in unique ways.

He wanted to be a magician like her.

But as he entered his teaching career, he experienced a disconnect in the educational system—one that did not allow him to be that magician or create a space for students to learn and thrive. Harris began sharing his experiences as an early-career teacher on a popular podcast called “Common Sense Podcast” as he continued his search for the right teaching job and school. Now, years into his career as a teacher, he has authored a book titled “The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers.”

In an hourlong conversation this week with Education Week reporters and editors, Harris offered key points for educators to consider.

Teaching is human work

“I’m no longer a teacher,” said Harris. “Instead, I’m a human being who teaches and the distinction makes all the difference for me.”

Teachers sometimes feel pressure to have conversations about current events that they are not fully equipped to have. Harris said that to combat this, viewing himself as a human being first removes pressure to perform in the classroom and creates a more honest andemotionally and physically healthy teacher. This mindset shift helped him to see that teaching is truly human work which allows him to bring all of his identity as a human being and a Black, queer man with him into the classroom, fostering a better connection with his students.

Change in education is slow

Harris said the changes teachers want to see are required but are slow to come by. It takes intentionality and focus. For teachers to do their best work, it is important to find a school they can call home. This means finding a school where teachers can feel comfortable long enough to implement required changes.

Beginning teachers can be pickier

For Harris, it is important that teachers start their careers understanding what is important for them as a new teacher, envisioning what a dream school would look like, and then finding one that comes close to fulfilling that vision. During the interview process, he said, job-seeking teachers can ask questions about the history of the school, its mission, and vision; teacher retention rates, and the school budget, which might give insight into the school’s values. Asking these questions during the interview process can help provide a perspective about the type of experience they might have as a teacher.

He advised new teachers to think of their interviews as two-sided: “I’m going to interview you as much as you interview me.”

And now is an especially good time to be selective, he said, because teaching shortages are changing the power dynamics in the education market.
All these key points can be found in his book. But Harris did not stop with that.

He ended the conversation sharing some feedback with Education Week reporters he received from teachers about how reporting on the topic of education could be improved. He said teachers would like to see more-nuanced stories of educators’ resistance, articles that contain historical context, and information about initiatives underway at the U.S. Department of Education.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession The Nation's Largest Teachers' Union Endorses Kamala Harris for President
The National Education Association's endorsement follows that of the American Federation of Teachers.
2 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. annual convention during the 71st biennial Boule at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. The #WinWithBlackWomen network says more than 40,000 Black women joined a Zoom call to support Harris on Sunday, July 21, hours after Biden ended his reelection campaign and endorsed Harris, and that the meeting was streamed to another 50,000 via other platforms.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. annual convention during the 71st biennial Boule at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. The National Education Association will support Vice President Kamala Harris as she begins her bid for the White House.
LM Otero/AP
Teaching Profession From Grade Books to Gold Medals: These Teachers Are Olympians and Paralympians
American teachers are among the athletes competing in the Paris Olympics and Paralympics.
6 min read
LaFond puts her best foot forward in the women’s triple jump at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, on March 3, 2024.
Thea LaFond puts her best foot forward in the women’s triple jump at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, on March 3, 2024. She's one of several current or former educators competing in the summer Olympics or Paralympics.
Bernat Armangue/AP
Teaching Profession Opinion This Initiative Seeks to Redesign How We Staff Schools
A team-based approach to school staffing gives room for educators, school leaders, and system leaders to rethink their roles.
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers' Favorite Reads This Summer
Teachers shared some of their summer book selections, with a wide variety of subject matter and genres.
2 min read
Woman reading book in hammock
Liz Yap/Education Week and iStock/Getty