This week I am at a summer leadership conference for teachers in my subject area from across the state. The teachers are slowly filtering in this afternoon, but by tonight the previously vacated university campus which serves as our host will be crawling with high school educators; folks happy to reconnect with old friends, to swap stories from the trenches, to laugh over dinner and refreshments about the blunders we’ve made this year, and to look with anticipation at the new mountains we aspire to climb. This week will be flavored with motivational keynote speakers and subject-specific workshops, like any good professional development, but as I sit with Starbucks in hand, awaiting the start of this great week, I begin to wonder where my real motivation will come from.
I find myself reminiscing over the first time I came here. I was 24 and celebrating the completion of my student teaching program. I was so proud to have earned the right to call myself a “real teacher”, ready to shed the scarlet letter of “newbie”. I was nervous, wondering where I would teach, what classes I would have on my schedule, and if I would be ready. But most of all I was excited, driven with the unweathered ambition of a kid trying to prove myself in a world of seasoned veterans. I couldn’t wait to get in my classroom, set up my bulletin boards, and display all of my materials. When I finally got my first class roster, I poured over it all night trying to pronounce each students’ name perfectly.
As I let my mind wander, thinking of that first class and those little faces, I find myself getting excited again. Maybe this is where my motivation lies after all.
Take some time this week to think about your first teaching experience. Pause to savor the good, and let’s be honest - not so good memories. Be proud of how far you have come. Think of the students who first walked in your doors, the lesson plans you anguished over, and the thrill of victory when you finally reached that one student. Think of the people who inspired you to be an educator and the qualities that made them great. I know its summer break – so go take that well-deserved rest – but as you get ready for the new year to begin, find some time to think back to what drew you here in the first place, harness that desire, and look forward to the adventures ahead.