Sunday, April 29, 2012


As I complete my thirteenth year as an educator, I would like to share thirteen lessons learned throughout my time as a teacher and/or principal.
  1. I've come to realize great educators take responsibility for their own learning rather than waiting for the school district to tell them when and what to learn.

  2. Great educators take responsibility for student learning and believe wholeheartedly that failure to reach mastery is not an option. By the same token, they understand that failure is a success in learning.

  3. Great educators continuously rethink the way in which they learn and are comfortable with being uncomfortable. They work to remain intellectually curious inside and outside the classroom.

  4. Great teachers never fail to plan and understand that 90% of differentiation happens before the students ever enter the classroom.

  5. Talking about great ideas and actually putting these ideas into action are two very different things. Great educators let their actions speak for themselves.

  6. I've experienced first hand that excellence doesn't happen by accident. Great educators believe there are no 9 to 5 jobs in education, only opportunities to make a difference.

  7. As an educator, if you find yourself stuck between two decisions, I've learned the one that requires more work is the best decision for kids.

  8. As a school leader or teacher, "Because I said so" or "Because its the way we have always done it" is never an appropriate response to the relevant question "Why?"

  9. No news is good news” is no longer the case when it comes to parent communication. Effective educators strive to establish partnerships with parents to support student learning. Great teachers understand this relationship may be the most important ingredient in a child's success.

  10. Great teachers refrain from grading students during formative assessments and assist students in learning from their successes, failures, mistakes and misconceptions.

  11. I've never heard of a student not doing his work; it's our work he's not doing.” If you give homework at all, it should be meaningful, purposeful, efficient, personalized, doable, and inviting. Most important, great teachers allow students to freely communicate when they struggle with homework and can do so without penalty.

  12. Competition can't beat collaboration! Great educators improve the curriculum together. They not only share responsibility for the achievement of all students but also admit other teachers contribute to their success.

  1. I see the student as myself.” Great teachers move beyond the narrow vision of content, skills, and knowledge and ensure that all of their student's educational needs are met. They are committed to educating the whole child. 

    What lessons have you learned?  Please share.


  1. This was a great post to read now, toward the end of the year. Very encouraging words!

  2. Thanks James for commenting. Just this morning I read a tweet by Dr. Todd Whitaker and I thought that it would make a great "lesson learned." He tweeted, "The best way to make sure students do not act like the year is over is for the teachers to not act like the year is over." Very true!

  3. I have printed this list off for my binder of really good advice!

    Grant Lichtman

  4. Thanks for the comment, it really means a lot coming from you. I enjoy reading The Learning Pond almost daily and admire your discipline to write and share on a regular basis. Your thoughts and ideas on innovation are both exciting and right on target. Thanks Grant for all you do.

  5. Glad my thoughts are helpful as are yours; hopefully some of your faculty will check in with the blog and add to the conversation. With my sabbatical coming up I will be happy to join in on these important issues.

    Grant Lichtman

  6. You missed one, Shawn. #14-Great educators are inspired, motivated, and appreciated by great leaders. Educators are just like everyone else, they have lives outside of their career that demand their attention. It is much easier to find the strength to give your best when you know someone; be it loved ones, students, parents, teaching partners, or administrators, appreciate and believe in your abilities. I will miss working with you, thank you for your support and the inspiration you have been for my son. God Bless you and your family in your new endeavors.

  7. Great Post! I love #2: "If it isn't good, it isn't done." Every student can lean at high levels. As teachers, we need to stop being lazy and realize that mastery doesn't have a due date.

  8. Thank you Glenda and I will miss you as well. It has been a terrific three years and I have grown a lot in such a short time. I wish you the best as you make some tough but exciting career decisions. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Mrs. Beck - "If it isn't good, it isn't done. Mastery doesn't have a due date!" That is a terrific "Lesson Learned." I think you have shared my favorite lesson so far! I wish all educators would learn and understand this important lesson.

  10. Great educators don't blindly accept federal, state, or local mandates, and Great educators have the courage to speak out against mandates that are bad for students.

  11. Fel, thanks for your excellent comment. I believe there are many great educators but courageous educators who are not afraid to speak out are extremely rare. Educators who come to mind are Bill Ferriter, Joe Bower, Will Richardson and Diane Ravitch. This is definitely an area in which I personally could improve. Thanks for bringing up this important lesson learned. Recently, Bill Ferriter wrote an article titled, Why I NEVER Recommend Teaching as a Profession.

    He writes:

    "Those of us who stay will struggle to make crappy policies work -- and STILL end up on the bottom of the political dog-pile when they don't. Worse yet, we'll be called lazy by the very people whose crappy policies created all of the problems in education to begin with.

    I agree Fel, it is time for educators to take a strong stand for kids.