Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

What I Wish for You – wishes for new teachers

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Photo by Wynn Wink-Moran

As the final class for my student teachers approached a few years ago, I sat down one evening and thought of all I wished for them. While some would just be entering full-time teaching, and others had been teaching throughout their coursework, for all was a time of transition – leaving the structure and community of graduate school and leaping fully into the their new careers. As I sat at my desk and thought of each face, each person, each spirit, and of my own two decades in the teaching profession, past and present swirled together. I thought of myself as a brand new teacher and of my childrens’ teachers. I thought of my friends near and far who dedicate their lives to their students and poured my hopes for them into a piece, “What I Wish for You.”

Home briefly before class, I sit at my kitchen table now, preparing again for that final class. Gingersnaps for tonight bake in the oven, their crinkled skins dusted with sugar and cinnamon. The scent fills the air, as my thoughts fill with my students. To teach and work with teachers is a never-ending experience in dedication, humility, creativity, and honor. Again and again, I want to stand and applaud teachers for their sheer grit and grace and for their commitment to creating beauty in this world.

The teaching profession promises neither money nor fame. It holds no promise of high social status. During the past years, teachers have withstood the battery of an ill-informed public and decidedly, one might say, deliberately, mis-informed politicians.  The current Department of Education is filled not with educators who understand pedagogy, but business people, with little-to-no knowledge about education, and even less curiosity to understand. Teachers and students are blamed, rather than addressing the real issues in education—poverty, access to books, and hunger. Meanwhile, publishers continue to make millions mass-producing texts and tests with no basis in real learning. We find ourselves in a time where, “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, make laws about teaching.”

Ours is the only profession where everyone thinks themselves an expert—because they attended school. Most people would never presume to tell a doctor how to perform surgery, a lawyer how to craft a legal argument, or a construction worker how to pour and set the foundation for a building. Yet, these same people feel perfectly comfortable telling teachers who have studied pedagogy (the art and craft of teaching), brain research, methodology  in-depth for years, exactly what they’re doing wrong and what they should do instead.

I thought of these new teachers, of how wondrous and difficult the path ahead, the students who will fill their souls and those who will break their hearts, the exhausted hours of planning, worrying, and preparing—and of the overriding hopes for transcendence and transformation.

To teach – and teach well – is to choose a path of valor. To teach well is to embrace each student’s heritage language and culture. To embrace, not “tolerate.” To understand why, imagine a loved one looking deeply into your eyes and softly murmuring, “I tolerate you.” To teach well is to see beyond the guarded eyes and body stance, the baggy pants, to see the young child within craving acceptance and nurturing. To teach well is to apologize when you blow it. Because, you will. And, then you will again. We all do. Apologize and use it to model humility and humanity. Model how mistakes are often a crucial part of the learning journey.

To teach well is to know that our silence in the face of injustice is to condone it. I caution the new teachers I work with not to take on every battle, every injustice. This contributes hugely into why so many people who enter the teaching profession leave within the first five years. And, I encourage them to know what their souls tells them they must address. We each have areas we are passionate about. The world, and our students, need us to use our voices – as often the people who need voice the most, are the most silenced. Lift your voice.

To teach well is to create a classroom culture that welcomes laughter and mistakes, real books are read, and it’s understood that life is often messy. We’re all in this together. Teaching is rife with humanity in all of its forms. If you want neat rows where everything is supposed to add up at the end, don’t teach. It will be an experience in frustration for all. To teach antiseptically is to kill your students’ spirits. And, ultimately, your own.

The classroom is not a world separate from real life – the classroom is real life. Laugh, hug, cry, strive to bring out the best in each other. On the fabulous days, wallow in every glorious moment. On the not-so-fabulous days, take a deep breath, be gentle with yourself, and know that, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow,” as Mary Ann Radmacher writes.

What policy-makers can never take away from us is our ability to connect with our students, to convey to our students that we care for them as an individual soul doing the best they can in this world. When students sit in our classes, they aren’t thinking of national education policy, they’re thinking their own hopes and dreams, of what they’re learning, of how we make them feel—whether they feel seen, heard, and valued. These moments are ours to create again, and again, and again.

Dedicated to teachers, new and seasoned, everywhere….

 What I Wish for You    

wishes for new teachers    

by Dawn Wink       

I wish for you to fall in love with some aspect of each student. Remember, it’s the students that are hardest to love, that need love the most. So if it’s to find the spirit, or essence, or spark, or whatever you call it that resonates for you, for you to connect with that place, even if only for a moment.

I wish for your perspective to see beyond the piles of perpetual paperwork that wear away at our energy, time, and empathy–and maintain your focus on the expansion of the human spirit, on social justice, and on caring. This keeps that perpetual paperwork in its proper paltry place.

I wish for you to be able to laugh about the classroom disasters and cry about some of the stories you’ll hear from your students. Your students—and the world—need both.

I wish for you to meet enough of the parents to remember that each student is somebody’s child. So when the mass of humanity in the room starts to blur into a single blob, those pinpricks of uniqueness shine through the haze—even on the worst of days.

I wish for you to remember everybody has bad days teaching sometimes, no matter how long they’ve been teaching and no matter how much it feels like it only happens to us. At the end of that day, allow yourself a few minutes to learn, then gently dust yourself off, make a cup of hot tea to drink in bed, and go to sleep knowing that, as Maya Angelou says, “You did then what you knew how to do and when you knew better…you did better.” Tomorrow, you’ll do better.

I wish for you to daily weave something that you are absolutely passionate lose-track-of-time-and-your-surroundings about into your teaching. This is some of our most important work.

I wish for you to swear up one side and down the other as you prepare a lesson, that you’ll never never  ever “shoot-me-if-I-ever-agree-to-do-this-again” —only to realize after it’s over that the world is brighter, your energy is flowing, your spirits are high, and you find yourself thinking, “I can’t wait to do it again!” And right before the next time, you’ll be swearing up one side and down the other that….

I wish for you to receive a gift from a parent, given with gratitude from the heart. “Thank you for taking care of my child.” Especially when you know its purchase was a sacrifice in humble circumstances, know you have done well and let this shared experience fill your heart.

I wish for you to think back on your day and know in your heart, that today you made a difference in a student’s life (perhaps more than one)….That today you brought beauty into a world desperate for it.

If wishes were stars, I’d wish for you to experience your students as a sky full of spirits.

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Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

39 thoughts on “What I Wish for You – wishes for new teachers

  1. Pingback: One Year of Dewdrops | Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

  2. Well Dawn… After a year of being back at the profession that I love, I finally read your piece. I had some time! It was what the doctor ordered for my soul. Take care and keep up your good work, teaching and inspiration. I’ll try to also join some of the commentaries… I used to write, paint, draw, dream, etc etc I use much of this now that I teach little ones, in two languages. ¡Hasta la vista amiga!

  3. I LOVE this and today was the exact day, I needed to read it thank you!

    • Hi Laurie,
      Oh, I’m so glad this found you on the exact right day. I know the feeling oh-so-well. Thanks so much for taking the time to connect. All my best, Dawn

  4. Pingback: Teaching – Freedom Within Structure and Teaching with Stones | Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

  5. Dear Dawn, such bountiful, beautiful writing. Thanks very much for sharing — it is truly heartfelt! May your days be filled always, with sunshine!

    • Dear Steve, It was heartfelt, this is true. Inspired by students and teachers like you! I look forward to learning more of your own teaching journey. May your own days be filled with sunshine, as well! All my best, Dawn

  6. This is great!

  7. Thank-you for the lovely writing, it has warmed my heart. I look forward to my teaching days ahead both good and bad. Happy Holidays…Lisa Gordon

    • Hi dear Lisa,
      I just realized in the midst of the holidays on the ranch, I didn’t respond. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and I’m so glad that you enjoyed. I look forward to hearing more about your own teaching! Smiles, Dawn

  8. Lovely, Dawn. I recommend that any teacher dismayed, frustrated, annoyed, feeling beaten down to the point of quitting teaching go deeper, or lower, or under to where no one is looking and teach there.

  9. Dawn, your sensitive thoughts about the important mission and meaning of teaching should be shared with teachers far and wide. We so need people who will cherish their sacred trust to go into teaching. Sometimes even veteran teachers need to be reminded about how they touch the lives of their students so deeply . Here’s hoping your thoughts go viral! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for your courage to speak out about your wishes for teachers. How wonderful that you are helping to train so many new teachers, especially those who have changed careers and are going through the great teacher training program at SFCC. Keep inspiring love and connections. Best to you always! Meredith

    • Dear Meredith, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your own wisdom. I love how you talk about the sacred trust of teaching, something so reflected and lived in your own teaching and career. What a gorgeous legacy you’ve created – and continue to create! An inspiration. Love, Dawn

  10. Dear Dawn,

    Thank you for this beautiful affirmation of why we do what we do! The last part about the gifts made me think of my first year teaching in an LA suburb. My fourth grade student, Ricardo, gave me an old, well-loved stuffed animal for a Christmas present. I knew it meant a lot for him to give it to me, and I still remember it 20 years later! Your piece reminds us of the power of our words and actions, and how much influence they can have over these young lives. Teaching is an important job, indeed. Love, Kathleen

    • Dear Kathleen, Oh, even in the business of the holidays you wrote. Thank you! I love the vision of the old, well-loved stuff animal from Ricardo. What a gift from the heart! I visualize a gold-braided bracelet, probably not terribly expensive, given to me by a mother who I knew came from the humblest of circumstances. That bracelet meant so much to me! I still have the bracelet and continue to wear more than 20 years later. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Love, Dawn

  11. Hi Dawn. Lisa Wink shared this with me, and I’m glad she did. Your thoughts pretty much sum it up and encourage me to be a better teacher. Thank you.

    • Hi Tammy,
      I’ve heard so much about you! Both Lisa and Mom talk about you and your teaching all the time. I look forward to reading your own “Forever in First” blog. Thanks so much for connecting. Lisa wrote me a private note about how you embody so much of what I write about here. Bravo and bravo. I look forward to sharing our journeys. Smiles, Dawn

  12. Thank you, Dawn for making my day! I read this with my morning tea on Friday before heading to the classroom and I had tears in my eyes, not once, but twice, as I read it. You touch on all the “right” reasons why we teach and I walked into my school inspired yesterday, rather than dejected as I had been feeling after attending two after chool administrative meetings that lasted until 6:30 Thursday night. So glad I was fortunate enough to be one of the students in your education classes and that we have continued to stay connected. . . Love, Katie

  13. Thoughtful and deep when you really read it, really read it. Unlike a lot of people I have known, I like school growing up. The main reason was that I had mostly good, feeling teachers who recognized me and encouraged me. What a teacher can do.

    • Dear Ken – I loved how you phrased this, “…when you really read it.” As a writer and teacher, I hope that deeper levels of meaning might happen over time. I also know that is such a reflection of a thoughtful and deep you. Thank you.

  14. Thank you for putting these words together. They are perfect. And your inclusion of my favorite Maya quote is the best….I needed to hear these things. Teaching is getting harder and harder and often I think I cannot do it anymore-not because of the kids, but because of everything else. Your quote, ” To teach well is to embrace each student’s heritage language and culture. To embrace, not “tolerate.” To understand why, imagine a loved one looking deeply into your eyes and softly murmuring, “I tolerate you.””spoke deeply to me…so much of what is most meaningful to me as a teacher is learning about each student deeply, and when the classes are so full and the curriculum so stuffed, it is hard to look into their eyes every day. Thank you.

    • Mamawolfe,
      Guess who taught me that Maya Angelou quote?! And at such a crucial time in my own life journey. Thank YOU. Your own teaching and writing embody the true potential of teaching and learning. Thank you for bringing your voice and experiences to us all. Teaching is getting harder – which makes so very important that those of us who believe in its power and honor create community and give Voice. Those whose Voices are so often not heard in education – our students – are counting on us. Thank you for your essential work.

  15. That was very nice

    • Hi Chas,
      Hey, I’ll take a “That was very nice,” from you. That is high praise, indeed! Though, I AM partial to your calling out over voices of other students across the room, “Woman! This sentence doesn’t make any sense!” Smiles and hugs, Dawn

  16. Beautiful! As I read this I was reminded of Tammy, Garrett’s first grade teacher. She embraced a lot of what you talked about in your writing. I hope you don’t mind but I forwarded this to her. She’ll love it! If you haven’t already checked out her blog – you should “Forever in First”. It’s a good one too! Hugs to you!

    • Hey dear Lis, From everything I’ve heard about Tammy, it does sound as if she embodies this! Thanks so much for sharing with her. And, I’ll absolutely head to “Forever in First!” Much love to you, Dawn

  17. Thanks, this is amazing. Sometimes I ask myself Why do I keep teaching? and here are all the answers to that question.

    • Oh, Eli… Thanks so much for sharing this. I think we all ask ourselves this, don’t we? Then, we look into our students’ eyes and remember. In fact, I had that experience when you were my student! Thank you for continuing to inspire me. Abrazos, Dawn

  18. Dawn, would you consider letting me post part of this on my FB page?? (With your name attachedof course!!! I’ll bet it will get new subscribers to your “blog.” Is that what you call something like “Dewdrops?”) xoxoxsusan

    P.S. I told myself I would do a quick e-mail check before getting on the treadmill..I’ve now been sitting at the computer for 15 minutes..your wonderful writing is to blame for my lack of exercise so far this morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Ha!! I just went on FB and there it is. So, I’ll just repost it on my page. Love you!!!

  20. Oh, dear Dawn……..this is an amazing piece of writing. Every teacher, administrator, district office mucky-muck and politician needs to read it. It says everything I felt 15 years ago, before one of the big downfalls of education began, and the downfall of my teaching career began. Thank you for writing what was in my heart and soul, at the pinnacle of my career. I mourn its departure.

    • Oh, dear Susan… coming from YOU – the incredible, exquisite, heart-filled teacher that you are, I cannot tell you how much this means to me. You embody all of the very best of teachers. I was thinking of you as I wrote. Much love, Dawn

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