54: This Time vs. First Time #LifeWideLearning16

Life experience is very easy to write off when you don’t have any. It seems inconsequential and more of a burden than a blessing as you find yourself in your first real job out of college. Everything seems possible, and though you want to learn from others, you are pretty sure that anything they might teach you, could easily be learned from a book.

I was that guy.

And while I have always had a great deal of respect for veteran teachers, I didn’t fully understand who they were and what they had to offer.

Veteran teachers:

  • Know what has worked and what hasn’t in their own classrooms.
  • Have discarded more lesson plans than you have ever written.
  • Can build communities of learners and learn all names in a few short hours.
  • Have committed their lives to something that you are willing to use as a stepping stone to something else.
  • Have touched more lives than you can imagine.
  • Are amazing human beings, each with their own story that has led them to their own educational philosophy and teaching style.

Learning from veteran teachers, I changed my opinion on life experience. It was no longer something to be feared as a way in which each of us succumbs to stagnation. Rather, it became something I longed for, as every single event in my classroom was a “first time.” First times are as amazing as they are exhausting. They help to build us into who we are, but they don’t last. Their impact can only be felt until the next first time comes along.

When I looked at those veteran teachers and their knowledge of “next time” or “this time” in contrast to my never-ending “first times,” I couldn’t help but be jealous. They knew how to react and how to build something that lasts, and better yet, they could teach me. And so, I learned to listen. I learned that their experience was not archaic or from a bygone era. It was for right now, for my needs in the classroom, and for my kids.

And I realized that Life Experience is the one thing that I could never hope to learn, but rather something that could only be lived with one another. It took me stumbling into relationships with some of my favorite teachers to fully understand this. It is something I consider the foundation of the way in which I trust teachers and the way in which I try to support what they know and want to know rather than what I think they should.

And while I have a lot more experience than I did when I first set foot in my first classroom on the second floor of Cresthill Middle School, I will never have enough. It is something I continue to thirst for.

Ever more, every day.

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