If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Lee Ann Stephens:

Three truths I wish I’d known as a first-year teacher.

I walked into my first official day in the classroom as an idealistic twenty something with some innate skills, a boatload of ambition, and a newly minted teaching degree from a program that did its best to school me on theory and practice. But what I couldn’t have known, and what my teacher training program didn’t completely prepare me for, was how much I’d have to learn on the job. When it came time for me to turn the teaching theories I’d learned into real, boots on the ground results, I was in for a schooling of a new kind. I call those early months in the classroom my “Fumbling Through” era.

Now nearly three decades later, my rookie learning curve is ancient history. I’ve taught a wide range of subject areas from first grade to high school, and I help other classroom teachers address the racial disparities in education in my current job as a racial equity coach. But even today, I still think about those first days of my career and can’t help but wonder: Can we do better to set new teachers up for success? What skills would have been good to have in my teaching toolbox as I was getting my sea legs?