Shoveling a Path Through the Snowdrifts for New Teachers

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupThis post was written by Amy Ballard, who teaches English, Creative Writing, Speech, and Drama at Camas County High School. She is a Returning Teacher in the Idaho Core Teacher Network program in Region V. Catch her presentation entitled “Faith and the Public School Teacher” at the Federal Programs Conference in Boise in April. Amy also presents on topics in ELA at conferences and in school-level professional development settings. Contact her at amy (at) amyballard.com or visit her Web site, www.amyballard.com. This post was cross-posted from her personal blog.

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” –II Timothy 2:2

Record snowfall, sub-zero temps, high winds. . .the perfect recipe for a snow day. My southern Idaho district has had a few of them this year–five, to be exact–and the weather forecast indicates prime conditions for another snow day tomorrow. Some of my fellow teachers are sick to death of snow. And it has been inconvenient. But then, I know a farmer who prays every year for just such an “inconvenient snow” to give moisture for the summer’s crops. This year, she sure saw her prayers answered!

Yesterday, I uncharacteristically picked up a shovel and cleared a path through some three feet of snow (deeper in places where the wind had drifted it) to the woodshed. The experience reminded me how wimpy I really am (had to take a break half-way through, and by the time the path was clear, I was so tired I didn’t know if I could survive the actual carrying-the-wood part). How much more grateful I am today for my wood fire because of the effort I went to to get it.

Now, my three kids can use the path I cleared. This morning they each brought me an armload of wood from the shed–something they would not have been able to do if I had continued to ignore the arduous chore of shoveling that path.

In teaching, sometimes, we need someone to clear a path for us, too. As a young teacher, I often found myself struggling with classroom management, organization, or maintaining student engagement. Teachers with far more experience offered a listening ear and the much-needed use of their tool-kits at the moment when I was most frustrated. God placed compassionate, skilled mentors in my life who had shoveled that path, clearing the way for me to find success in the classroom. I’m so grateful!

If you’ve been teaching for fewer than ten years, you probably don’t feel like an “expert” yet. Maybe you never will, because teaching is a constantly changing world, and wise teachers know they must continue to learn and grow throughout their careers. But even with a few school years under your belt, you have the needed perspective to help someone newer than you.

In fact, you might already have put in the grunt work to clear one of these paths for new teachers:

  • Identifying priorities in work and in life
  • Aligning lessons to standards
  • Lesson planning
  • Creating effective plans for subs
  • Communicating with parents
  • Meeting the needs of diverse learners
  • Implementing character education or other program
  • Getting the most out of professional development
  • Planning for efficient use of prep time
  • Using formative assessments effectively
  • Reflecting on successes and growth areas
You’ve been down that path. You had a tough time, and it was work. Real work. Now it’s time to take on the role of a mentor and help someone else get through the same snowdrift.
What “snowdrifts” could you help another teacher through? What drifts do you need help shoveling? Share in the comments, then go get that shovel!
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3 thoughts on “Shoveling a Path Through the Snowdrifts for New Teachers

  1. Thank you for the reminder that while clearing a path may feel monotonous or work-intensive, it’s also rewarding. Not only the feeling of accomplishment or the joy of a job well-done, but the many other people who can benefit from a cleared path. Any time we can create space, we infuse more joy and oxygen into what is experienced there — and we can free up cognitive energy for the important things in this life: one another!

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  2. You point out that we may never feel like we know what we are doing – even after 10+ years of teaching. That resonated so much with me! I think this is my 20th year of teaching but I learn so much each year. Yet I appreciate your reminder about the people who helped me way-back-when. I hope that I give back, though I always worry about being too “prescriptive” rather than being a thinking partner. Thanks for the reminder to 1) reach out and 2) ask what a new teacher needs help with!

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