You survive your first year of teaching, in fact, you have survived several years of teaching. You are by no means an expert but you know your way around the classroom and can get things done with the students. You have a few tricks that you know will work and occasionally you add a new one. At this point in your career as an educator you have two choices
- Move into leadership (ie section leader, department head, vp, principal, etc.)
- Continue in the classroom
These are the two choices ever teacher faces after overcoming the initial struggles of the classroom. The reality is that there is little room for career advancement beyond leadership opportunities. Either you continue teaching the way you do now, become a better teacher, or move into leadership. There are few lateral positions in education, especially in smaller less populated areas. If you lack passion for leadership the classroom could become tedious.
This partially explains why the best and the brightest are not attracted to a career in the classroom. There are few opportunities for expanded responsibility. Combine this with low pay, difficult students and parents and there is little to attract someone to a lifetime in the classroom. A few years in the classroom is good for the resume but a career? This is a hard sell for many.
Despite these concerns there are several ways to grow among some of the most common includes
- Action research
- Collaboration with others
Reflection or praxis involves looking over what you taught and deciding what went well and not so well. This type of thinking can happening in writing by keeping a journal and or through recording yourself while teaching. This allows you to see what is working and not working and to develop a plan for change.
Reflection is in many ways one form of action research. Action research is the process of systemically assessing problems in the classroom and developing an action plan for change. This topic has been discussed on this blog before.
Collaboration with Others
There are many ways teachers can work together to grow. For example, peer teaching involves teachers who mutual observe each others teaching and provide comments for growth and improvement. Peer observation is a teacher watching the teaching of another educator. It does not involve both teachers watching each other teach.
There are also the traditional method of seminars, conferences, magazines and more that help teachers to learn from each other. Working together is critically important as teaching can often become a lonely experience with collaboration.
Many believe that teaching should be a life-long profession. However, this is naive. People should continue in an occupation as long as they are fully committed to it and draw satisfaction from it. It is better to be an excellent teacher for five or ten years than to be a terrible teacher for 25 or 30 years because literature states that teaching is a life-time profession. JK Rowling, George Orwell, Lyndon Johnson, and even Sylvester Stallon were teachers before moving on to other opportunities. There is no need to worry about the lives you could have touch as an educator as long as you have a positive impact on the lives you actually came in contact with.