I never really know how to take it when someone says, “I’m surprised you still try new things.” Or,”You’ve been teaching forever, what do you still need to prove?” Better yet, to sit in on an interview and hear only new teachers have new ideas. Once I asked what was meant by these questions, and I was a little shocked and annoyed by the answer. Basically, since I’d been teaching for so long it was assumed that I would still be teaching the same way I always had with no need to stay current or to try new strategies. New strategies or research could only come from newer, younger teachers. Umm, no. It’s not that I have anything against younger or new teachers. Hey, I was once one of them myself. Yet, what many people find hard to grasp is that, as a veteran teacher, I’m constantly learning and trying new strategies. It’s not just the need to stay current that drives me, but the need to ensure that I’m providing the very best education I can to my students.
So, how do we veteran teachers stay relevant?
- Mentor a student teacher or a new teacher. Student and new teachers have fresh eyes and a new passion. You will learn from each other. Often the desire to be a good model and mentor improves your craft as well.
- Don’t wait to be trained on technology. Seek it out. Try it. Don’t worry if you don’t know all about it. Just do it, and then share with others.
- Read professional books and blogs, and then share what you’ve learned. The running joke on my former fourth grade team was if I’d come to school on a Monday morning and utter the words, “So, I read this book and…” I’m constantly reading to hone my craft.
- Ask to provide professional development in your building. We have a lot to share. Not only from our own experience, but because we are life long learners and enjoy sharing what we’re learning.
- Don’t be afraid to switch grade levels. Sometimes we can get way too comfortable in a grade level, and therefore, don’t really see the need to change or keep current. How can you be relevant if you aren’t growing? Not to say that if you’ve been teaching the same grade level for years there is something wrong. No, just don’t teach the same lesson plan in the same way for all those years.
- Get connected. It doesn’t matter the platform, just get talking with teachers outside your own building. This will expand the ideas you’re exposed to, and provide places to hear about new strategies and technologies. Then, you guessed it, share what you’re learning.
- Advocate for our profession. Face it. The older we get, the less we tend to worry about what others think, and we stop being afraid to speak up. It can be difficult for new teachers to speak up. They have a lot on their plate. Often we don’t feel comfortable rocking the boat early in our careers. Midway through our careers we get over that. Yes, many new teachers are already at that point, and I’m always in awe of that confidence.
Stay your authentic self, and maintain your enthusiasm for teaching. These alone will keep you relevant. Remember, a healthy school is one comprised of a good balance of new and veteran teachers.
How do you stay relevant?