February 06, 2009

In The Middle?

I am approaching the middle of my teaching career. I am also in the middle of the teacher generations. I am no longer the “new guy,” nor am I a part of the “old guard.” I find myself being placed into leadership positions both on campus, in the district, and even here on the web. I am embracing the opportunities that come my way and doing my best to serve when and where asked. I am also trying to mentor as many young teachers as I can. This is an interested and somewhat daunting place to be, in the middle.

Many of the teachers who mentored me in my early years of teaching have either retired recently, or are close. Some of them have worked hard through their tenure to keep up with the latest teaching trends and held tight to the swing of the educational reform pendulum. Other veteran teachers found what worked for them early on and have stuck to a winning game plan. It’s sad to see these folks move on; they take with them volumes of experience ALL teachers could benefit from learning. If you are in the twilight of your career please share your wisdom.

As I look around at my peer group of teachers I am impressed. Most of us are Generation Xers who enthusiastically jumped into teaching because we saw a need and felt a call. Now in our teenage teaching years we have learned a little, experienced a little, and are starting to refine our game. We’ve been though the onslaught of standards and lived through almost a decade of NCLB. Thankfully many of us missed out on BITSA, but we’re all pretty good teachers anyway. We now answer the call of campus leadership and are ready to lead the way.

This newest generation of teachers is a truly impressive group. They have endured a ridiculously difficult process in their pursuit of teaching. But, for all of the hoops, and test, and essays, and lesson plans, these young teachers are dynamic, exciting, and just plain fun to be around. Their ideas are fresh and innovative, their integration of technology is impressive, and their love of teaching and learning is clear. I am excited for my own children to be taught by this amazing young generation of committed, encouraging, and enthusiastic young teachers. It is true, the future of teaching is bright.

Education evolves with every new generation of educators. True some of the themes and ideas get recycled, but the teaching of students is a process that improves every year. Each successive cohort of teachers stands upon the shoulders of the giants who came before them as they reach higher and higher to raise up the next generation of learners. But the ultimate goal remains: teach the students well. I’m so thankful to be included in an alliance of individuals who commit themselves to the improvement of our planet through the education of all people and the growth of our culture.


  1. I'm with you, the new kids are great. They are energetic, motivated, and tech-savvy.

    I'm in the middle, too. I've recently started filling the leadership gap - the number of science teachers who are, or have retired, is staggering.

    I have my ups and downs, still. But, I've seen enough changes come and go that I have a fairly realistic sense of what I can accomplish, who the players are, and how I might be able to incorporate those changes.

    It's good to be in such a stable position - not a nooby, but not just waiting for retirement.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head with this post. I'm in my fourth year of teaching and feel as though I'm hitting my stride, starting to enjoy the benefits of a few years of experience in the classroom. I was a career changer; I started off as a research technician in the laboratory, found it somewhat unfulfilling, and decided to take my love of science into the classroom to share it with a new generation of kids.

    As a reflective practitioner, I started keeping a blog this year at thepoorteacher.com to track the ups and downs of my professional year. I find it extremely useful to write about my experiences, even if only a handful of people end up reading my entries. It is a practice I would recommend to any rookie or veteran teacher.

  3. Kevin, good observations. Thanks for them.

    I hope that the refinements in teaching that comes with time are predicated on what produces high outcomes for students. I used to be sad about how experience in teaching often seemed to lead to lowered expectations and a premium on keeping students happily engaged. To the extent that you are seeing teachers using practices (techniques, methods, procedures) that result in demonstrable gains in students' learning, we educators are moving in the right direction. Rah!