Excited About My First Year in Education…For the 22nd Time!

I can still imagine the way Bill’s eyes scolded me for interfering with a magical moment for my own son.  Bill had excitedly extended an offer to personally guide my son Jaiden and me through the community nature preserve.  Jaiden, 7 years old at the time, filled the time hiking around the woods and stream with a barrage of questions equal to the flies, critters, and bugs surrounding us.  At one point, Bill asked Jaiden to lift up a large rock laying in the water.  No sooner did he lift it up when tadpoles, minnows, and other creatures began to emerge from underneath!

One after another, Jaiden began asking a barrage of questions with fervor and amazement – what is that? how is it moving? can it bite me? where is it going? what was it doing there?

Bill had the same astonished look as my son and deflected Jaiden’s questions with others of his own – how is it breathing? what does its face look like? why was it hiding under there?

As I began to answer the questions, I finally caught Bill’s eyes.  Without speaking any words, Bill’s eyes told me to stop talking and to let Jaiden discover them on his own.  To help Jaiden foster the wonder and curiosity.  To encourage Jaiden to see things for himself, make sense of the world around him, and to just enjoy the magic.

How could Bill smile like that after the hundreds of trips he’d had through these woods?  How could he still “be” in a sense of sheer amazement with my son even after the thousands of students he had guided through the stream from before?

As educators, regardless of our years of experience, it’s important that we take the time to not only celebrate the milestone we have in education (for me, I begin year 22) but also remind ourselves of the sheer joy and mystery from our first year in education.

As we went through our initial journey as an educator, our first class of students went with us.  As years progress, it’s easy to forget that it’s the first year for this group of students or staff.  We bring our previous emotions and experiences from one year to the next, but we forget the power of coming alongside others in their journey with the same fervor and newness as we did in our first year.  So, here are “3 Joys to Recapture” for your success this year:

Joy #1: Recapture Your Why.

In my first year, everything was new.  I spent a lot of time creating and planning.  Over time, although not a bad thing, I refined and revised the plans and previous year’s efforts.  Although the routine, policy, rules, or activities may have gotten better each year, I had forgotten the need to explain and share the rationale of the why behind each of them.

We tend to perform the activity, but we forget to share why it is done that way.  We do a better job from the previous year in communicating the policy or guideline, but we might not throughly explain the reason it’s in place.  We sometimes even get short with a person for asking a question you’ve heard 100 times before, although it may be the first time that particular person is asking you the question!

Take time time to recapture your why.  Why did you get into education?  Why do you choose to continue in it?  Why is it important for you to lead or communicate in a certain way?  Write it down.  Post it on a wall.  Create opportunities to review and reflect on it regularly.  Have a trusted friend hold you accountable in making sure you keep your why at the center this year.

Joy #2: Recapture Your Purpose.

There’s a not-so-funny joke of people who use the same lesson plans year-after-year.  In some misguided way, they believe their plan was perfect from the previous year and needs no reflection for improvement.  Beware the dreaded “TTWWDI” that infests the power of purpose by leaving droppings of “That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It”.

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Be watchful of that catch-phrase and mindset of holding onto the past in spite of the here-and-now.  Our students and world are constantly changing at a rapid pace.  We need to continue to adapt and be flexible.  Look for ways to innovate and challenge the status quo.  Be careful in relying on past accolades or results that appear to be safe.

Joy #3: Recapture Your Heart.

In my first year, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I had a complete hope and dream I could reach every student.  While wisdom and experience comes with age, it can also make us jaded and pessimistic at times.

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Be watchful for the story in your head.  Are you beginning to mistakingly profile people or situations based on past ones?  Is it taking you down a path that is true, or are you being fed a false truth?  Don’t allow negativity to change who you are or your heart.  Be optimistic and in a place of hope for others.  Give people a chance.  And, most of all, give yourself a chance.

Closing

At the end of our time at the stream, I thanked Bill.  Not just for spending the day with Jaiden and me, but for also teaching me a valuable lesson to make the first time for others to be magical!  Good luck this year!

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