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Friday, June 1, 2018

To All Those Who Would Be Teachers: Advice from Mandy Manning, 2018 National Teacher of the Year


Editor: We invited Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, to offer some advice to our students who are preparing to become teachers at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University.  We share her advice to all who would be teachers.  Thank you Mandy!
 

 

Advice for Teacher Candidates at Western Washington University

Mandy Manning

2018 National Teacher of the Year

 

 As future teachers, you are embarking on a career with true impact. With every student who passes through your classroom, you are influencing the future.

 
I’ll never forget my first day in my own classroom in Spearman, Texas. I was teaching theatre and communications in a small rural school. Walking into that classroom the first day, I felt completely unprepared and unqualified. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure how to follow the teacher’s guide for the communications curriculum.

 
As soon as I met my students, though, I knew I’d found my place. On that first day, I looked at my class and I realized I wasn’t just there to teach communications and theatre. I was there to teach students, and those students came in all shapes and sizes and personalities. No matter how lost I felt, I knew I’d do anything to help my students grow academically and as people.

 
It took nearly half of my career—10 of my 19-years in the classroom—to realize that I did know what I was doing from that very first day.

 
I don’t want you to have to wait that long, so here is my advice for being the best teacher you can be:
 

1.     Get to know your students. Don’t just know them as learners, but know them as individual human beings. Find out what interests them, what they do outside of school, and learn about their home lives. It is only through knowledge of students that you will know how to teach them. Not only will you be able to tailor your lessons to the needs of your students, but your students will also know you care about them. Veteran educator Rita Pierson tells us in her TED Talk, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” You must show students you care about them in order for them to care about what you are teaching them. Moreover, use that knowledge of students to always do what’s best for them in your instruction, even when that means being a bit rebellious and adjusting the prescribed curriculum to meet the needs of the students in your classroom.

 
Also, give your students the chance to get to know their peers and connect with one another. This will help to build community in your classroom and create a safe learning environment where all students feel valued.
 

2.     Open your doors. We have a tendency to get comfortable in our classrooms, because we know we can control that environment and that we have an impact there, student-by-student. It’s our space. But, our impact shouldn’t stay only within our classroom walls. Our impact can stretch so much further if we open our doors and invite others in—community members, parents, school board members, district leaders, legislators and fellow teachers. We must also seek opportunities to observe other educators and educational environments. As educators we have much to teach our students, our colleagues, and our communities. On the flip side, we have just as much to learn and we must seek that knowledge through our colleagues and through experiences that challenge our perceptions.
 

3.     Join professional education associations, locally, statewide, and nationally. Not only have education associations provided me with some of the very best professional development, they also have helped me find my tribe - the group of people with whom I connect and can lean on for support throughout my career.
 

Education associations strive to recognize teachers as the professionals we are and give us the space to share our ideas and our perspectives. Our voice matters in the association. Most importantly, a single voice does not always bring the changes we need to see in our classrooms, schools, districts or states. Oftentimes it takes a collective voice. Education associations are that collective voice to amplify our ideas to impact policies that in turn impact our classrooms.

 
As you look out at your classroom of students on your first day, you will see the hope and potential on each of their faces. This is your purpose and your impact as a teacher: to help students see their own potential, to provide them tools and skills to meet that potential, and to guide them in creating a plan to achieve their dreams. No matter what anxiety you might be feeling that first day, remember it is our honor and our privilege as educators to shape the future, one student at a time.

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