Three Convictions

The fun part of writing my latest book has begun – the second draft. It’s a bit like sculpting, looking at each paragraph, knocking out words that distract and inserting ones that enlighten. What’s really exciting is reading something that I had expressed poorly, and suddenly being able to fix it because I finally comprehend the idea’s deeper core.

I am currently working on the pages that describe my first year of teaching (no computers yet), and I find that I ended that year with three convictions that kept me in the education profession and helped to carry me through the next 40 years.

  1. Teaching is important.  If I had understood this during my early days in the classroom, I would not have allowed myself to get tripped up so easily.
  2. Teaching is a personal art.  A classroom is not a laboratory and none of its subjects can be controlled.  Even though there is much that is known about what works and what doesn’t, the most important tools for a successful teacher are imagination and inventiveness.
  3. Teaching requires a passion for both what and why you teach.  To be imaginative and inventive in your classroom, you must already know a lot about your subject, be in the habitual practice of learning and unlearning, and understand why your students should know it.

13 thoughts on “Three Convictions”

  1. I love your three points of what you learned your first year of teaching. I was lucky enough to realize just how important teaching is my first year. I believe that is because I did not go directly into teaching right after college. In fact, I was a bartender for four years before going into my degree and field of teaching. My speech teacher came into the bar I was working and talked with me for two hours. As she was talking, I remembered why I went into education in the first place. SHE had changed my life and therefore I needed to carry that on…I knew teaching was important, I was lucky. Your second point hit so close to home with me. Teaching is a personal art. I love teaching speech/debate & drama. I am able every day to use my imagination to delve into areas that reach far beyond books and scripts. My students are also very much involved with taking the lesson on different paths than what I may have expected from the start. I love that!!! Number three is the key. Especially now. I know so many teachers that are no passionate anymore about teaching. They are there merely going through the motions. This is sad to me. I love what I do, my students can see that and they trust me as I build a safe-environment for each of them. Thank you for this post. I plan on showing it to all of our staff, not just first year teachers. If I could add a fourth. It would be: You (the teacher) set the stage for learning by building relationships. Once you show you genuinely care and want to be there, they will do anything to learn.

  2. I really identified with the fact that you said teaching requires a passion for both what and why you teach. I’ve seen so many colleagues who loved their subject matter, but did not really have a passion for teaching. I was cooperating teacher for a student teacher last year who could not tell me why she wanted to teach; she had no passion for her subject or prospective field. This really disturbed me, and I must say figured into my final notations. Students tap into the enthusiasm we teachers have (or don’t), which is why the passion you note is vital. Until the idea that teaching is a really difficult profession is fully accepted, I don’t think that we will get these dually passionate teachers. I recently explored the concept of how teaching is not really seen as a profession, and I think this has to change to get more people like you into our field. I don’t want to insert a link here, but I’m Socrates Underground if you’d do me the honor of looking.

  3. I agree with your three convictions you shared. Teaching is VERY important. We are shaping and educating the minds of people who will one day help to run our country. We need to teach them to work together, to be problem solvers and to care for one another along with the infinite amount of standards that need to be covered by the end of the school year. Teaching IS an art. The more you do it, the more comfortable and knowledgeable you become over your subject matter. You have to be careful and make sure that you are continuously learning so that you do not get burned out doing the same stuff year after year. Teaching IS a passion. Sometimes that passion can get sucked right out of you by administration and coworkers who don’t seem to care, don’t show up for work on time, and don’t seem to teach their children anything at all. Has your book already been published? What is the title and expected publication date?

  4. Your three points hit the nail on the head! They encompass what teaching is in a clear, concise way. As an educator for the last 12 years, I have experienced each one of these points throughout my teaching career. Often times as educators we get bogged down with the “extra” things that education involves, and we sometimes lose sight of how important we truly are to our students. I am a firm believer that teaching is a calling; and those of us who are called to do this job are truly called to do it. Great teachers are those who believe principle 2; teaching is an art; not a science. It is not a “cookie cutter” type job. We must be flexible and open-minded each time we step into the classroom because we are making a positive impact on the students’ lives each day.

  5. This article was spot on! I can definitely relate to all three of the convictions you mentioned in this post. I have only been teaching for five years but teaching is very important and I can not tell you how many mistakes I have made throughout the short time I have been a teacher. I have had to learn and grow. The use of imaginative and inventiveness has gotten me through some really tough challenges. Without having a passion for teaching, I would be a failure at my job. My passion is what keeps me going and continuing to learn and be excited each and every day!

  6. This article was great reading! I am a kindergarten teacher and see all this everyday in my classroom! I am also using this on my own and finding it more and more true everyday. Thank you.

  7. I agree with your three points you shared. As an educator for the last 17 years, I have experienced all of these points throughout my teaching career.

    1. Teaching is important. I teach students and work with them every day, I love to see they get knowledgeable from me, they learn new things from me, and I also learn new things from them. We learn and
    grow together.

    2. Teaching is a personal art. I love the sentence “the most important tools for a successful teacher are imagination and inventiveness”. We work with students for a whole year, I fresh my teaching strategies every day. I am continuously learning so that I can bring new teaching style and strategies to my class and do not do the same stuff every lesson. When I make my lesson planning,I always ask myself that do I imagine and inventive something for my students this lesson? How I can help them to achieve and understand their learning. What I can create for my
    students in next lesson. I have a clearly goal that what I need to teach them in this lesson, why my students should know it. How I help them to understand their learning content.

    3. Teaching requires a passion for both what
    and why you teach. A teacher when she enters her classroom with a passion, her students will get more knowledgeable and engage more in their learning. Sometimes it seems I don’t teach them anything, but every word I talk to them they get it in their head. As an educator, My behavior is a role model, when I step into the classroom, I show open-minded and a positive that it impacts on the students’ lives every day. My passion has become the driving force of my daily teaching and excitement.

  8. I agree with your three points, however, schools have become a business and with that comes policies and standards that makes it difficult for anyone to believe your three points.

    Because it is a business “teaching” is no longer as important as it once was. It is more about testing data, retention date, graduation data and how to score well in these areas.

    Because it is a business, the “art” to teaching has been replaced by teaching towards a test. Your teaching ability is measure by how well your students performed on state-wide assessments. So, they get you this textbooks that your students cannot relate to and force common core down our throats instead of giving is the creativity to teach.

    Because it is a business the “passion” is not there as much because of the two reasons listed previously. I remember learning my times tables, the state capitals, cursive writing and other basic things that improved my ability to memorize information. It wasn’t that knowing all of the states capitals would benefit me on any test, but helped me to memorize information that I would need to know. It forced me to use my brain.

  9. David,

    I completely agree with all three of your convictions. Teaching is so important and unfortunately, it seems like it is being valued less and less by society. The focus has been taken off of teaching for the sake of learning and put on standardized test scores. I love your comment about how a classroom and its students cannot be controlled. Even though we are taught a thousand different types of classroom management, it is up to the teacher to really figure out what makes their classroom work. The best part about this is that it will probably be different for every class because all students are different. Your third conviction is my favorite one. Teaching would be such a miserable profession for someone who wasn’t passionate for the art of teaching and for their content area. We can’t expect our students to be passionate about learning if we aren’t passionate about teaching. We REALLY can’t expect them to be passionate about our subject if we aren’t. Too often, we see teachers that are passionate about their subject, but not about teaching. That is not beneficial to our students. They need a teacher who is passionate about the entirety of their job. I completely agree that teachers should stay in the habit of learning. I love going to conferences that deal with my content area! I come back refreshed and excited to teach my students what I have learned. When they see that I am excited about my education, they become excited about theirs. I think that the most important part about your third conviction is that students need to understand why they need to learn the information. This also helps me when I am lesson planning. It helps me to cut out all of the extra garbage when I ask myself, “why do my students need to learn this”. Making a real life connection usually helps me to express the “why” to my students.

    This was a great post! I saw that you wrote that these are things that you learned in your first year of teaching. I am pretty early on in my career and it is really nice to be reminded of the important things. Thank you!

  10. David,

    First, I would like to acknowledge your connection to the arts. I am a middle school art teacher and I feel like I can relate to your experience and your three convictions.
    Yes, “teaching is important.” It is too easy to forget this when dealing with difficult students, unappreciative administration, or challenging parents. Not to mention the little financial rewards that come with the profession, but the other rewards make it all worth while.
    “Teaching is a personal art.” Absolutely.
    “Teaching requires passion for both what and why you teach.” I agree and I believe that is why a lot of young teachers get burnt out. As an educator you have to be passionate about what you are teaching or the students will lose interest in you and your class. I am equally passionate for my art and my students and it balances life out perfectly.

    Thank you for the post and the reminders of why I do what I do.

  11. David,
    I completely agree with your three convictions. This is my third year as a special educator and I am learning each of your convictions every day. Many days it doesn’t feel like what I’m doing is important, but when I look back and see the progress my students make based on my efforts I am convinced that what I do is vital to their success.
    I also agree that teaching is a personal art. My county (Montgomery County, Maryland) provides the general education teachers with county mandated lesson seeds that must be implemented. These contain “ask questions,” resources, assessments, and formatives. The inflexibility of this makes it difficult for teachers to enact their own personal art. Now that all behavior management is school-wide PBIS approved, it leaves small space for personal classroom teaching art with different classroom management techniques.
    Finally, you are 100% correct that teaching requires passion. You must get excited when a child beautifully multiplies multi-digit numbers. Bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils make me happy. Papers that are organized, sorted, and correctly labeled satisfy my mild OCD. Teaching is not easy. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Your students become your children. Their successes and struggles become your successes and struggles.
    I may have to post your convictions in my classroom to remind me everyday that his is important. I do make a difference. I know my students best and should have the flexibility to meet them at their level. I must keep this passion and love for this art in order to remain the type of teacher that helps children to love learning.

  12. What I find to be the most compelling aspect of your piece is that it really looks like you have constructed an open conversation more than make a statement. I see some people confirm their own ideology of teaching and others disagreeing with your convictions. As I read your three convictions (which I agree with), I find that it took me far longer to come to those conclusions and have found that they are flexible. The truth is, I was far too concerned with what other people thought of my teaching for those first several years. I don’t think I truly found the passion until the bell rang one day and I realized I didn’t have a full plan of what to teach. Of course, I fell apart for a moment or two, but then it hit me; I didn’t need a concrete plan in front of me to teach. I had many years of education, experience, the standards, and years of accumulated things with which to teach all around me. That is when I realized my own set of convictions. Currently, I am trying to figure out what leadership means in that same context of convictions. Having been pushed in the administrative direction several years ago but lacking principal credentials, I was sure my future was set. Now, I am seeing all of the ways that I can lead within the building and not have to leave the classroom. So, I guess what I am saying is that I like your set of convictions; it’s short and succinct. But I leave the door open to changing my convictions as I go grow each year. Take my words with a grain of salt as I am still just under a decade into my teaching journey.

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