August 28, 2012
Jonathan Teghtmeyer

Happy New Year!

Summer has ended, and if a certain retailer’s back-to-school TV commercial that features a Christmas song is to be believed, ­September, not December, is the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

According to the commercial, the start of the school year is a time for parents to celebrate a new-found freedom as teachers again assume daily responsibility for their children. The commercial also perpetuates the notion that students bemoan the end of the halcyon days of summer and dread returning to the classroom. Sure, lots of kids might prefer spending lazy days at the lake, hanging out at the skate park or playing video games, but schools can be exciting places, especially when students look ahead to the possibilities offered by a new school year.

As for teachers, they greet September with hope and optimism as they look forward to meeting new students or teaching a new course. Given the often stressful conditions and long hours of teaching, and the increasing diversity of the student population, teaching in a way that engages students can prove to be a challenge.

Teachers are practitioners of a craft that is both an art and a science. Every lesson is a little experiment in which we hope to connect students to ­curricular content in the most meaningful way possible. At our best, we inspire every student’s curiosity and their desire for knowledge as we help them navigate the demands of the curriculum and achieve desired outcomes.

Teaching is a highly reflective profession, and as teachers prepare lessons based on sound pedagogy, they think carefully, execute plans, assess results and consider how to adjust lessons for next time.

I confess that I was awful at keeping journals in my undergraduate practicum placements. Little did I know how important that activity would be when I started teaching seven different courses a year in a rural school. My advice to beginning teachers, therefore, is to journal every day, if you can, because a lot of time can pass before you sit down to prepare for the same lesson next year and having notes on what did and didn’t work will help you a lot.

The beginning of each new school year is a blank slate and brings so many heightened emotions for teachers. We have reflected on last year, planned new units and tweaked our lessons. We are ready to meet new students, all of whom are individuals with their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, talents and history. We hope to amaze them; we know we will be amazed by them.

Teaching is incredibly important and rewarding work. For returning teachers, I wish the best year yet. For our colleagues new to the profession, I wish you the same thing, but add that the year ahead will be full of challenges and rewards, triumphs and failures. Be honest, flexible, resilient and patient. Remember that all your colleagues have been there before, so call on them—they are a great resource. You have joined a noble and valued profession. Welcome!

I welcome your comments—contact me at jonathan.teghtmeyer@ata.ab.ca.