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Do you ignite or extinguish?

There is no doubt, being a classroom teacher is an incredibly challenging job. Meeting the needs of diverse learners while: balancing the expectations of parents and administration, meeting state standards, planning field trips, holding conferences, attending meetings before and after school, analyzing student data, collecting and receipting money, and building innovative and engaging lessons everyday can be incredibly overwhelming for a seasoned teacher. Just imagine being a beginning teacher, year 1, 2, or 3, and trying to balance all those responsibilities.

Now think about all those things and as a ‘newer’ teacher accepting the challenge to present at a district conference and a state conference.  I think we would all agree it takes courage to stand in front of your peers and share.  Many teachers never find the courage to stand up and share – which is disappointing, because I truly believe we are all better when we take risks, not only for ourselves but for the kids we serve.

So what do you say to the beginning teachers that take the risk, only to be discouraged by seasoned teachers that question, doubt and even criticize their innovative practices at their own school?

It reminds me of a Theodore Roosevelt quote, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..”

How can we expect our new teachers to continue to have a fire and a passion for teaching when many of the veterans they teach with are trying to extinguish it?

I choose to ignite and I do that by connecting new teachers with other innovators on Twitter, getting them to EdCamps, and providing opportunities for them to share their EDU Awesomeness with educators beyond their building.  As veteran teachers we need to model risk and innovation.  We need to celebrate the successes we see around us and lift up, not only our beginning teachers, but each other.  Most importantly we need to challenge each other to be better for our profession and for the kids we have the honor and privilege of serving.

Do you ignite or extinguish?


3 thoughts on “Do you ignite or extinguish?

  1. Thanks for the inspiration this morning. Let’s keep the fire ignited and spread it within and beyond the walls of our school! Thank YOU for always being an igniter. You’ve helped me become a risk-taker, and I’m so thankful to have you as a mentor and friend.


  2. Chris wrote:

    How can we expect our new teachers to continue to have a fire and a passion for teaching when many of the veterans they teach with are trying to extinguish it?


    Hey Pal,

    You are right: You are always an igniter — the fuel for others in so many ways! That’s what I love about you. Not only are you good at it, but you take it as your professional responsibility.

    I think my one nudge here would be that those veteran teachers that you are talking about — the ones who seem to extinguish everything and everyone around them — are more of a reflection of the dysfunctional system that they have spent their entire careers working in than of who they are at their core.

    I’m a good example of that, to be honest. I’m skeptical of darn near anything at our school or in our district because I’ve spent 24 years watching failed initiatives and being on the receiving end of blundered change efforts. Worse yet, I’ve been on the receiving end of criticism for darn near any struggle that schools have — even though I have no real control over what happens schoolwide or district wide.

    Is that an excuse for being an extinguisher? Probably not. We should follow mom’s advice and say nothing at all if we have nothing nice to say!

    But it is certainly an explanation — and the only way to fix that is for people beyond the classroom is to concentrate on focusing their change efforts and ensuring that there are consistent, manageable opportunities for success. Plans that are too big or that aren’t doable given the time and resources that we have only reinforce the skepticism of those of us who have been around for a long time.

    Any of this make sense?


    1. Bill,
      Thanks for your thoughts! As always, you push my thinking. I agree with you in terms of district initiatives and dysfunctional systems – at times, those suck the joy out of me too – but, we can’t let that discourage us to point of taking down the new, excited teachers that will carry on with this work after us. It is not an easy task though and I get that – but we have to try to raise each other up because everyone else is trying to knock us down. What do you think?


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