Christie Olsen realized she was sharing the same advice with her daughters when they encountered challenges as the new teachers she supported in her school district. Here, she shares those three themes of support.Jan 27, 2023
A reflection by Christie Olsen, NBCT, professional learning coach in Lake Havasu Unified School District.
You probably remember your first teaching assignment: the unruly student, the difficult parent, the office manager with the key to the office supplies just beyond your reach. New teacher mishaps and mistakes are a staple of lunchroom legend. It is even tougher now.
Our oldest daughter graduated from the United States Naval Academy and our youngest from the Colorado School of Mines, both exceptionally challenging institutions of higher learning. To say they faced challenges is an understatement. To be successful, each required an unparalleled support system.
I began to recognize common themes of support. What I told my daughters through texts, letters, and phone calls is what I was also telling new teachers. Three themes emerged and became the foundation of support I could provide to first-year teachers.
Theme 1: They can’t stop time.
No matter what you are experiencing at this moment, it will not last forever: the lesson that went south faster than you could have imagined, the awful toxic conversation you had with an unsupportive parent, ‘that student.’ You know the one, that student. The storm you are experiencing at this moment will not last forever. The question becomes if you will come out on the other side as a better version of yourself. Will you be more precise with your words? More intentional in your planning? Better prepared? More compassionate to those around you?
Theme 2: Focus on the focus.
Never forget why you are here. No matter what, at the end of the day, our work is about one thing and one thing only: students. Our work is not about observation checklists, Marzano’s Essential Instructional Strategies, depths of knowledge, or 21st century skills. It is much bigger than all of that. This work is about students. If you can’t see the students in the initiative, then dig deeper, ask questions, and push the envelope. Don’t ever forget to focus on the focus.
Surround yourself with individuals who will push you to take risks, who will challenge you to go further, who will dare you to push past limits you set for yourself and then when you feel you are at your breaking point in your weakest moment find those who will stand beside you, or in front of you, or behind you, and push you over that wall of uncertainty. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is born the moment when one person says to another, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”