I know for the first five years of my career, I was bound by the idea that in order to be a great teacher, I needed to be great at teaching the curriculum and checking all the little boxes the administration and state put before me.
During my first year, I focused on covering standards. During my second and third year, I focused on checking all the little Marzano teacher evaluation boxes. During my fourth year, I focused on trying to get the kids on board with this and doing what my administration told me to do.
By my fifth year, I felt like most of my kids hated me and I hated the constant struggle to manage my class. I was ready to be done.
Discovering Oklahoma Writing Project (OWP) and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) changed that. They gave me permission to follow what I knew in my heart I needed to do — listen to my kids, meet them where they're at, and then walk with them as they grow.
While OWP and NBPTS gave me permission to do what I already sensed I should, listening to my kids helped me discover what I actually needed to do. By getting to know them, I learned what they needed as students and people.
Everything changed and I became the teacher who listened, the teacher who understood, the teacher who pushed them to succeed when no one else would, the teacher who (as Taylor Mali said) make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
But before that could happen, I had to let go of my old ideas. I even wrote a blog post about the moment when I realized I had to let go. You can read it here.
So what about you? What is holding you back?
I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my Master's of Education in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students' voices and choices.