Guest Blog Post
By: Christine Smith
Well over a decade ago, I stood in the hallway and felt my heart palpitate as a
rush of children turned the corner and headed straight toward me. Nothing was stopping them. Yes, I had completed all of my educational course work, survived student teaching, and passed my certification exams. But they were coming right for me. I, alone, was their teacher. In a matter of seconds, I would be entrusted with the responsibility for their entire well-being. I was to protect them, know everything about them, push their limits, and celebrate their achievements based on my best laid plans coupled with split-second decisions. I survived that day and I loved every second of the 180 days dedicated to those children. I stayed at school long enough to wrap up each day and prepare for the next, I reached out to colleagues and leaders who knew more than me when I wasn’t sure, and I enjoyed letting my leaders give me feedback so that I could invite them back in to see that I had put their recommendations to good use. I bonded with families, was honest and learned from my mistakes, and vowed to be even better next time.
I also had the pleasure of initiating my career with several others in the district that year. We naturally and frequently met. We bantered about creative ideas, consolidated differentiated materials, and asked for more training or information from our leaders as needed. We celebrated one another’s successes and shamelessly reflected upon our failures. We talked about what we could do to help each and every one of our students. So much so, that we could recognize students who weren’t even in our own classrooms. As we collaborated with one another, a supportive bond was formed and we knew that our level of professionalism and dedication would protect our valued careers far more than any tenure laws could promise to do.
Today, as an administrator, I join my staff on an unprecedented journey into the world of evaluation systems meant to quantify our effectiveness which we all know is enveloped in our dedication, passion, and knowledge. Now is our time to harken back to their first days of working with children as a novice teacher. Remember how you wanted to do well and feel proud? You wanted to see each child grow and witness success. You were tireless, eager to show off your skill set, and willing to receive feedback with certainty that you would do it more effectively next time. We all know that, at our core, none of this has changed. I invite all educators to awaken your core. Let your passion for bringing your best skill set to every child to carry you through the spotlight with pride. Recognize that the journey through our new evaluation system is not a judgment, but an opportunity to be drawn back to the passion for embracing each day with your students, enjoying the collaboration with colleagues, and consistently growing as a professional.
Christine Smith is a vice principal in a suburban New Jersey public school and previously taught elementary school. You can find Christine on Twitter at @CsmithChristine.