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My cohort graduates today. I feel so honored to be a part of their journey. So, here is my hope for them.


My Cohort Is Graduating

Last Wednesday, I sat at a table surrounded by members of my cohort. I listened to them share stories from their practicum experience and offer tips for how to empower their students. It’s one thing to talk about creativity and innovation. It’s another thing to hear them wrestle with how to make it a reality in their classrooms.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all shop talk. Our conversation meandered into sports and tv shows and movies and books. But when it was shop talk, it was a beautiful thing. I listened as they shared their fears and their hopes and their failures and their successes.

I was reminded that over the course of a year and a half we have grown from a class into a community and now into what feels like a family.

So, this morning, as I prepare for graduation, I am reminded of this deep and profound reality. Tonight twenty-four amazing students are going to become teachers. They’re going to make mistakes. But they’re also going to be amazing. They’re going to change the world. I’ve had the honor of observing them in action and I can’t wait to see the impact they make.

So, I created a sketch animation video that I plan to show to them after their action research symposium this afternoon:

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25 Things You Should Know About Becoming a Teacher

Congratulations. You are about to enter one of the noblest professions in the world. Here are 25 things you should know about ahead of time:

That’s right. Twenty-five.

  1. During the first week of school, your feet are going to hurt.
  2. You will rediscover the joy of simple things, like smelly markers.
  3. You will have teacher nightmares the month before you start teaching. It’s totally normal. We all get them.
  4. But some of those nightmares will become a reality. Because you’re going to fail. Hard. But each mistake is another iteration closer to success. So, keep experimenting.
  5. You will learn to hold your bladder for hours on end. If this were an Olympic sport, teachers would be gold medalists.
  6. You will cry in your car. Or at your desk. Or maybe even both.
  7. You’re going to put on weight. It’s like the freshman fifteen, except it might be 20 or 25.
  8. You will yell at your class. You will apologize. And your students will amaze you when they forgive you on the spot.
  9. But here’s the thing. You’re going to have amazing lessons and you’ll shock yourself with how awesome you are when you bring your A game.
  10. You will leave your lunch at home and eat it from the vending machine. You’ll convince yourself that Cheez-Its and Cheetos are a full portion of dairy.
  11. You’re going to start carrying around hand sanitizer everywhere. Or, as the kids call it, “Hanitizer”
  12. From this year forward, you are going to be stuck watching the same Bloodborne Pathogen video year after year after year. Welcome to the club.
  13. You’re going to fall asleep at 5:00 in the evening with a half-empty carton of Ben and Jerry’s and a massive pile of papers.
  14. You’re going to try to do too much and try too hard and that’s okay. Just give yourself permission to rest. Watch a movie. Read a book. Go out into nature. Take care of your health.
  15. Your students are going to amaze you with their work and their ideas and their growth
  16. You’ll feel like the luckiest person alive. And you are. But here’s the thing. So are your students.
  17. You will worry about your students. You will have a student whose story breaks your heart and you will think about that child every day when you go home.
  18. Then you will go back and you will listen to that child and affirm that child and teach that child and love that child even when they are difficult. Because you are a teacher and that’s what we do.
  19. Someday the kids in your class will come back and invite you to their college graduation and hand you a thank you note and you’ll cry in your car just like you did in the first year of teaching.
  20. Even on your worst days, you are going to think critically and promote justice and transform the teaching practice.
  21. You will inspire students to be better people
  22. and empower them to be deeper thinkers.
  23. They will feel safe and loved and challenged.
  24. They will be the makers who build a better future.
  25. And the world will be a better place. Because of you.

My Hope for My Cohort

Keelan (my cohort co-leader) and I are also planning to hand each student an affirmation card filled with the positive observations of their peers. My hope is that they keep this with them and refer back to it in their moments of doubt. I want them to teach out of their identity. I want them to see that their humanity, both broken and beautiful, is exactly what their students need.

I want our cohort to experiment and innovate and transform their classrooms into bastions of creativity and wonder. I want to see them admit humbly when things aren’t working and then continue to experiment and iterate.

I want them to be different from day one. 

Different from the test. Different from the system. Different from the naysayers who will mock their idealism and optimism and hope. Different from the way things have always been done. Different from the status quo. Different from the unspoken rules of how teaching has to be.

I want to seem the rewrite the rules. I want them to play the new teacher card every single day of their career. I want to see them ask questions and chase their curiosity. I want to see them fight for justice. I want to see them transform their practice and, through teacher leadership, transform their schools.

I want to see them change the world. And tonight, when we celebrate both who they have become and who they are becoming, I am convinced that they will do exactly that. The world will be different because of them.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.More about me


  • Julie Walther says:

    Awesome post! You left off one item in your list of 25 things. I always tell beginning teachers that teaching takes a great deal of salt–lots of tears and lots of margaritas! I have been teaching long enough that I am now teaching children of students I taught. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing former students raising the next generation of readers, thinkers, and citizens. After 30 years in education, I still wake up looking forward to each day!

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