When I was coaching basketball, I would always ask the veteran coaches at the end of the year what they learned from the season. I wanted to soak up the wisdom from those that were more experienced than me so that I could better serve my players the following season. Sure enough, even though these guys had been doing it for 10-20 years - and had probably seen everything - they were still learning on the job. They still had something worth sharing.
Here are seven things that I learned from teaching this year, perhaps they will be of help to you. But more importantly, I encourage you to share the things you have learned, your wisdom, in the comments section below so that I might learn from you.
1. The second law of thermodynamics is proven every spring by seniors. The quality of energy decreases over time due to entropy.
2. To go home when the bell rings at the end of the day is to be human. To stay and meet with a student, read in the library, catch up with a colleague in the hallway, or be a part of the school community is divine.
3. We read the great books to be more human, not to earn a grade.
4. Teaching AP Literature has changed the way I see things.
Here’s an example from this year. I saw my niece play an indoor soccer game. While I was there, I took a stroll around the complex and saw middle school kids working out with personal trainers - lifting weights, doing plyometrics, speed, agility, you name it. Yet none of them seemed happy. It struck me.
There are many students in this year's graduating class that will get their college wholly paid for, if not partially because of academics. Far fewer received athletic scholarships.
What does that say about our priorities? What if those same kids had parents that paid for math coaches, science tutors, and chess teams instead? Which would pay off more in the end? I saw athletics differently from that day forward. I would not have thought that three years ago. This coming from a man that was once an extremely dedicated coach.
5. There are people in my classes that did not read this year. I know it and it bothers me. It bothers me because I did it too. I was academically immature for a lot of years and I have a lot of regret over it. I used the same tricks. Sparknotes, change the size of the font, double space when only single space was required. It does catch up to you. In the end, you still pass, you still get the diploma, you move the tassel at graduation. Where it catches up to you is opportunity. You are not as complete as you should be. You can’t speak with intelligence and depth on a wide range of subjects. I have been working hard playing catch up for the mistakes of my youth.
6. We have to do something better in this country to encourage deep, personally meaningful thinking. I fear that this does not show up on a teacher's evaluation or a student's test score.
7. One aspect of teaching that is overlooked is that it is a great form of patriotism. I feel I am doing something for the advancement of this country. In the end with 30 years of teaching, I may have impacted 5,000 kids directly, and they in turn may impact others. Teachers pay it forward.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.