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Bruno: A Reminder That New Teachers Appreciate Structure

4803569724_40f68a215f_nRyan Heisinger is a first-year high school English teacher in the Newark area, and on Friday he published some reflections on his first month on the job.

You may have read lots about and from rookie teachers recently, but Heisinger's post is worth reading in its entirety because it nicely captures two very different realities about education:

First, Ryan's post provides a lot of insight into what many new teachers are looking for when they enter the classroom for the first time.

He talks, for example, about appreciating his administrator's "strong vision" for the school and its culture. This is something that is often lost in discussions dominated by veterans, but new teachers do often appreciate having a vision imposed on them (to one degree or another) because they haven't yet fully developed visions of their own.

 Which isn't to say that Ryan doesn't have a vision of his own: he does, and you can start to see its outlines as he describes what he considers his victories from the first several weeks of school.

I don't want to over-interpret his post, but when I read it I am reminded of my own - vague - ambitions when I first started teaching. What I wanted - and what I suspect that Ryan wants - was to provide students with things they weren't getting from their teachers before, even if I didn't know exactly what those things were.

Like Ryan, then, I'd have been encouraged to have students tell me they were going to do work they wouldn't have done in the past, or to see the rate of homework completion go up. Those would have been concrete victories I didn't know enough to expect. (Actually, I'd still be thrilled to get my homework completion rate up to 80%.)

This is the paradox for many new teachers: their visions are in many ways ambitious, but also sufficiently fuzzy that they can be satisfied by modest-but-distinct accomplishments.

Unfortunately, if you read it all the way through Ryan's story also illustrates the pettiness and animosity that often dominates education discussions, especially on the internet.

It may be due in part to the fact that Ryan is a Teach For America corps member, or it may be that platforms like Twitter somehow encourage annoying, pointlessly adversarial behavior. Whatever the cause, education debates online are often needlessly ugly, and Ryan's reflections on the subject are among the good reasons to check out his post. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

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