So let me start by saying… I’m old… not unreasonably old and not really old in my head but its been a long time since I was the rookie teacher in my school.  I’m the one that’s “always been here” and the one that knows all about what was “a million years ago.”  On top of just being at my school for a long time I’ve also been the department chair for my department for a long time – a really long time – as long as my daughter has been alive (22 years.)  With the role of the “veteran” teacher/department chair seems to come this expectation that I know a lot and that I know what to change and what not to change and probably that I’d be reluctant to change some things – habits and all.   Some of those assumptions are true, some are not. Here’s what I’ve discovered as I’ve made some changes…..

  • I know a lot less than I thought I did.   Like what might make me happy.
  • I am reluctant to make some changes – like the fact that I’ve been at my school for 28 years (32 if you count my time there as a student) and I don’t want to leave.  I’m comfortable.  Is that bad?   Maybe?  Some believe that you can only grow when you’re on that edge of uncomfortable.   I’ve been thinking a lot about that… .
  • Sometimes it’s ok to make changes just for yourself.  Its not selfish – its actually one of the best things you can do for the world. Positive changes in your own life ripple out to others.
  • Change isn’t always bad – Big change for me is that I’m not the department chair this year.  I gave up the position (too long a story for this) and thought I’d be very unhappy.  I like being a teacher leader in my building and somehow thought that position MADE me the leader.  Guess what?  That wasn’t it!  I was a teacher leader sometimes in spite of that position and I still am!  Its an awesome feeling!
  • If you don’t change, you don’t grow.  I knew this and really thought I was doing this.  I’m the one who likes the new technology, who likes trying the new technique or mixing up the curriculum outline to try it a new way.  That’s not usually what’s expected of the veteran teacher.  I thought I was open – and I was to an extent.  But somehow I was being held back.  Too many other things to do and lots of pressure had me giving up the things I loved the most.  I wasn’t growing in my classroom.  I wasn’t taking the time to think and try new things.  This year there is no easy route for me and, believe it or not, that’s ok.  I am excited.  My desks aren’t in rows.  I’m making my students work harder, think more.  I’m doing standards based grading AND interactive notebooks in my NEW prep!  I’m working on connecting with EVERY kid (instead of attending every meeting.)  Sometimes to change you need to go backwards a little – back to your roots.  Find your passion and grow.
  • Sometimes the change is worth the risk.  Its scary to jump off the cliff when you don’t know where the water is below.  But sometimes the cool dip is worth the scary jump.


So I changed some things and didn’t change others and I made some changes even when I wasn’t sure I should.  And this time it all worked out. Maybe I’ll be more likely to take the chance next time. So I’m the 50 year old veteran teacher leader who knows some stuff, doesn’t know other stuff but is still growing and I’m pretty excited about that.  Here’s to a brand new school year and all the adventures it may bring!




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    • Mary Bourassa on August 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    This is such a wonderful post, Lois! It is very brave of you to have made these changes – staying in your comfort zone may appeal to some, but you grow as a teacher and help your students so much more by stepping out of it. Thank you for sharing.

      • lbburke on August 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Mary! Its been scary and exciting at the same time.

  1. Hey! I’m so happy you’re blogging this year. We don’t see too much writing by veteran teachers, even though your voice is so important. I’m looking forward to following along. (And if you feel like showing off some day, I hope you’ll let me come watch a class.)

      • lbburke on August 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks Kate! I’m honored that you would follow! You’re one of the first ones I stalked on twitter and followed on your blog. A great inspiration to me! I’d love to have you come visit one day. I’m definitely not great (or even good) every day but I’m certainly working on improving every day!

    • Laurel on August 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Great post. We have so many new teachers at my school, that I’m starting to feel like I’ve “always been” there, too (+12 years).

    I love your students first mantra – connect with every student (instead of every meeting). Amen. I’m in education for the students.

    Can’t wait for your next one!

      • lbburke on September 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Thanks Laurel! Its been a great start to the new year.

  2. Lois – I just came across this post, and I have printed and taped it into my favorite notebook. Just what I need to read the night before I return to school – thank you for sharing these great thoughts.

      • lbburke on September 3, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Thank you Wendy! What an honor! I hope you have as great a first day as I had. Here’s to following our passion.

    • Geeky psych on September 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I love it! You are a master teacher who offers so much to our students (and your coworkers).
    I thought math teachers were not supposed to be so articulate!!!

      • lbburke on September 10, 2013 at 2:15 am

      Thanks! You are an amazing colleague and friend! I appreciate the kind words!

    • Gigi on September 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Wow Lois! You nailed it on the head. I hope to be the same “old” person as you in my job. I thank technology for how that helps me do what I do. Thanks for posting this!

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