Peer pressure severely limits achievement
in many schools. Students who DO NOT do well scorn those
who DO well, and these students join together, socially, to
limit each other’s success.
You see them at school. They drag themselves to school.
They sit in the back of the room. They don’t bring
paper or pencil. Instead of listening or participating,
they read a magazine or find something else to do. They
are not motivated and they don’t want to learn.
And the clothes they wear needs cleaning or pressing.
Students? Oh no. We’re talking about some
teachers you’ll find on every staff. We call them
SURVIVORS. Read pages 5 and 6 in The
First Days of School about those teachers who
simply survive from day to day.
These are good people. They entered
teaching full of fantasy, coupled with dreams to make a difference
in the lives of their students. Some of them now have
20 years invested in the teacher retirement system, yet they
are only 43 years-old. They can’t leave teaching,
because they are too young to retire, but have too much in the
retirement system. Either way they feel trapped.
So, they sit in the teacher’s lounge
these teachers, who do not do well, scorn those
who do well, and these teachers join together,
socially, to limit each other’s success.
And the new teachers do not even know or recognize the peer
pressure that is exerted to severely limit them from learning
It is done so subtly. The survivors
sit together in the lunch room with their names “engraved”
on their chairs, where they have been sitting for 20 years reinforcing
each other’s beliefs. If one is absent that day,
don’t you dare sit in that empty chair.
If you do, they will say to you, “You know what’s
wrong with this school? The kids, they don’t want
And because you are a young, new teacher and you want to be
accepted and be a part of the staff, you politely agree with
the statement and say, “Yeah.”
You have just been manipulated.
They say, “We don’t get any backing from the administration.”
Because you want to be accepted, you say, “Yeah.”
You have just been manipulated.
They say, “We get no parent involvement.”
“The inservice meetings are a waste of time.”
“I wouldn’t bother going to any conference on my
own time.” You say, “Yeah, Yeah, and Yeah.”
Very quickly, you believe that the kids, the parents, the administration,
and staff development are all to blame.
And don’t forget to blame the class size, school size,
press, national reforms, standards, publisher’s programs,
schools of education and the student’s poverty level,
national origin, and race, too.
The surest path to decline is to blame others for
your problems. You must become an advocate
of what you believe, otherwise you will become a victim of
what others want you to believe. (Pages 284-285, The
First Days of School).
It’s Easier to Develop Good Habits
You came into teaching with the conviction to make a difference
in children’s lives. You had this passion and enthusiasm
to succeed. You were going to develop every child’s
talents and potential so that they can realize their dreams.
Yet, within one grading period, your enthusiasm, passion and
any dreams you may have had are gone.
Behavioral psychologist tell us that it takes 21
days to establish a pattern and about 100 days (about 14 weeks)
to make it automatic. People who get beyond an initial
three-month threshold period (such as in an exercise program
or diet change) stand a good chance of continuing the pattern
Put another way,
It is much easier to start to develop
because it is almost impossible to break bad habits.
So, start to develop an annual habit–right now.
And add to your habits as you grow in your professional life.
Effective Teachers Go to Conventions to Learn
Never, never cease to learn.
We would like to suggest that you go to at least one conference
a year. There are conferences all year long. Some
are national and others are held locally.
Ask your colleagues in your learning community if they know
of any conferences. See chapter 3 in The First
Days of School for a list of associations.
If no one will go with you, go by yourself. Don’t
be afraid to go by yourself.
Conferences are very easy to understand. Register and
read the program book beforehand. All conferences have
three major parts.
Exhibit Hall: First, there is the exhibit
hall with row after row of vendor booths. At most every
booth, the people representing the companies are handing things
to you. And you say, “How much?” They
say, “Free.” You say, “Free? Gimme,
You can tell who the new teachers are. They walk around
with 16 bags of free sample materials, plus fund raising candies,
pizzas and chocolates.
Whereas, the veteran teachers are walking around with one little
bag. If we’ve seen it all, why are we in the exhibit
hall? Ah, to see our friends from Minnesota, North Carolina,
and Oregon, whom we have not seen in a year.
And, when we see them, the conversations are always the same.
“What are you doing? And they ask you “What
are you doing?” Everyone is doing, doing,
Listen to the professional attitude of successful teachers.
They are all participating, contributing, developing and doing.
It is heart-warming and contagious. You go back
to school fully charged with a happy, positive attitude and
proud that you are a fellow teacher.
But, that’s only one part of a conference.
Sessions: Second, there are the sessions.
At any given hour, there can be as many as 30 or more sessions,
all at the same time and you have to make a choice.
Read the program and plan ahead. If you get to the session
at the scheduled hour, many times the session is already full.
Conference-goers are not like some of the negative teachers
back at school, who whine about why they have to go to in-service
meetings to learn.
Veteran conference-goers know that sessions can fill
early, especially if there is a well-known speaker or the session
features a popular subject.
In fact, people are there before the session starts, waiting
for the previous session to finish. And when these people
leave, they squeeze their way in to get a seat.
The next presenter also squeezes his or her way in. Goes
to the front to set up. Reaches into his or her bag and
pulls out a sheaf of handouts and says to the person sitting
in front, “Please take one and pass the rest back.”
And does the presenter ever bring enough handouts?
And that’s why Rosa Parks said, “I will not sit
in the back of a bus.” Rosa Parks is an American
hero. She gave everyone the choice to sit where one chooses
to sit, to eat where one chooses to eat, and to worship where
one chooses to worship.
There was a time when we could discriminate against minorities,
by segregating them into less appealing places. That way, they
could not get anything, while others got to choose everything:
jobs, schooling, and opportunities.
However, because of Rosa Parks, today, the only person
who can discriminate against you is yourself.
At the end of the session, the presenter will often say, “These
books and materials are just too heavy and costly to take back
on an airplane, so if any wants…”. Vroom.
You jump up there and you say, “Gimme, Gimme.”
The front row of the room is the land of opportunity.
And then there’s the third part of the conference that
is not even in the printed program.
Receptions: It’s all of the parties
and receptions that are held after the scheduled sessions are
It’s easy to get invited. Just read the program.
Look for the posted signs. Act interested at the booths
and the vendors will invite you to their receptions.
You go from one reception to the next: food and drinks galore.
The best part of the receptions and parties is you get to meet
and network with other teachers–teachers who are all doing
and contributing to education. No whiners.
Oh, these people are easy to find. Listen to them talk.
They believe in the potential of all children. They believe
in the dignity of the profession.
Most importantly, they believe in nourishing themselves by
constantly learning. That’s why they go to conferences.
And On Monday
And, when you get back to school on Monday, you have this big
smile on your face. You look at the bags of free goodies,
reams and reams of handouts from the sessions with valuable
information, strategies, and techniques to help you improve
your competence, and, most importantly, pleasant memories of
the professionals who make you proud that you are a teacher
So, learn to allow nourishing teachers to nourish you too.
Go to a convention at least once a year.
It’s an infectious habit you will enjoy.
Denise Campbell of the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado,
says, “The language arts conference is the highlight of
my professional year. The best ideas are gathered there
and I am such a thief.”
Go to conferences. Go to “steal.” Go
to learn. Choose to enhance the quality of your life and
the competence of your profession. What an awesome habit
Successful People Make Choices
Before another day goes by, we beseech you to read
Unit E in The First Days of School.
On pages 277 to 284, read about teachers who
DECIDE to talk like other teachers, dress
like other teachers, and act like other teachers, and those
CHOOSE to think for themselves and continually
seek information so that they can determine their own destiny.
We know that 60 percent of teachers have not been to a convention,
conference, or workshop on their own time and money for an average
of ten years. They see other teachers with the same attitude
of not wanting to learn, so they DECIDE to do the same thing.
Then, we also know that from March 30 to April 2, over 12,000
teachers CHOSE to attend the national conference of the National
Science Teachers Association. These teachers have chosen
to expand their potential, increase their capacity, and enhance
their own lives and dreams. They enjoy learning.
From "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," Professor
Albus Dumbledore speaking to Harry Potter, says, "It is
our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
Here are some habits you can choose to develop:
- Choose to invest in yourself so that you can increase your
value to others.
- Choose to learn and grow as a professional.
- Choose to avoid thoughts and people who will limit you.
- Choose to stop surviving and existing and start taking small
risks to create incremental growth.
- Choose to identify what you want to do with your life and
choose to DO IT.
Effective Teachers Never Cease to Learn
What you have just read is an abstract of the message found
in the CD Never Cease to Learn.
It can be found as a free addition in the new, third edition
of The First Days of School.
You can listen to the 38-minute Enhanced CD on a CD player or
view it on a personal computer.
We know that you can learn and grow professionally, which will
move you from the level of survival to the level of mastery.
As a master teacher you will impact lives and help children
realize their talents, potential, and dreams.