Appreciate Don’t Replicate

The summer is a busy time of learning for many many educators.   Conferences, edcamps, online learning opportunities, twitter chats, and more are available pretty much 24/7.

There are many many wonderful educators who are doing many wonderful things in their classrooms (or did many wonderful things) and it is fantastic that they are willing to share their ideas with us.

You are sitting at the feet of giants who have gone before you (usually pretty successfully) and as they share their thoughts — it is very easy to start wanting to have what they have or to be like them.

But before you decide to do a complete make-over of your classroom, your lesson plans, and perhaps your teaching style……I ask you to remember the following.

Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Your classroom is filled with opportunities and re-imagination options. Look at ideas that were shared but make them work within your classroom setting and your classroom budget. Don’t go broke just to buy something because someone told you to. Be creative and garage sale and thrift sales to decorate your room but remember, their classroom was not rebuilt in a day.

Your administration is not theirs!

One of my pet peeves is when someone says “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than ask permission”. For me, that shows no respect or offers any opportunity for conversation. You know your admin… know where you can stretch the line and where you need to be wise. Bring your administration into the conversation. Seek their wisdom, include them in your planning. If your admin IS on your side for classroom change that will much more beneficial than an admin who feels you went behind his/her back.

Your strength is you!

When you are listening to someone share their story, you often are only hearing the triumphs, the successes, and the ends. You very rarely hear the pitfalls, the failures, and the Plan B, C, D…and more. So, before you reinvent yourself to be something new….look inside to see what is WORKING already — working well …. and then start building some new ideas. And also, be honest and look to see what is NOT WORKING — and be willing to start making some changes on that too.  But don’t change to be like someone else…make changes that will make you a better you.

Your goal is your kids!

Right now, being an educator is so exciting! There are so many learning choices available and the opportunity to be the best teacher your students will ever have is right before you.
Take what you learned and sift it through your classroom strainer. You will know your kids better than anyone else. That is a strength you have that they will never have. So take the ideas shared but make them work with your class.

It is always good to learn new things…..and it is always good to change up your classroom, you teaching style, and your hopes/dreams for each new year.   But remember, you were hired to be in your classroom.  Not the person who you just heard at a conference, edcamp, read their book, podcast, etc.   Your administration chose “YOU” because they wanted you.

So, after you listen and learn from the giants this summer, don’t walk away wanting to be a mini-me of them —
Take what you learned……meld it to work best with you, your classroom, and most importantly your students…..

and be the best YOU you can this next year!


  1. Laura Atwell says:

    Jen, thank you so much for your article. Very timely for me as I will be setting up a new class this school year (this is the 3rd time in 3 consecutive years) (hoping to stay settled for awhile after this move). Anyway, you inspired me to look at what has worked in the past- use what I have, & set my program up for the needs of the students who will be in my class this upcoming school year. I will be teaching a 2nd/3rd grade class for children with moderate to severe autism. I am excited to see what this school year brings & thank you for your wise words!

  2. KBaertlein says:

    Thank you so much for your post Jen!It is a great reminder that we all have something to bring to the table, and although we may be borrowing ideas from others, that we still have the ability and responsibility to add our own personalized touches. We all became teachers because we love working with students, but we all have different strengths and situations to consider when working with them. Every teacher knows their own students and their needs best and should adapt any strategy or activity accordingly. Although we might model our teaching after those we look up to, our ideas have value too.

  3. Liliana Medrano says:

    Hello Jen,
    This post was spot on for me. I was able to read it and relate to almost everything you said. It reminded me of my first couple of years when I was trying to have similar classroom to those veteran teachers. I was fortunate enough to get a job in the school I attended and had my student teaching assignment. Safe to say I was very familiar with my colleagues, who were eager to share all their lesson plans and techniques. As much as it was helpful it was also overwhelming. I wanted to emulate the great educators they were, but at the same time felt that I needed to find my own identity. You are right when you said that they hire us because of who we are and what we can bring to the classroom. It took me a few weeks to realize it and now I can say that after four years I have found a wonderful “Me.” I know this will be a constant changing me, as I will always re-invent myself as the times change and my students’ needs change. Like you said “your goal is your kids” and we can’t forget that.
    On a side note those thrift store finds are amazing. I have found the best three-hole puncher in the world. It was one of those sturdy old ones that don’t break when you are trying to hole punch more than three sheets of paper.

  4. Enavarrette says:


    I LOVE this post.Even though I am now in my 6th year of teaching, it is good to be reminded of these things. Sometimes I feel like every year feels a little bit like I am starting over and I constantly ask myself- How will I be better this year? What will I do to make THIS year better than last year?? I particularly like the “Your administration is not theirs!” section. You make such a valid point by suggesting to others to make their administrators part of the conversation. Often, I think so many of us forget that our admin serves as our advocates, yet sometimes we think of them as the enemy. Opening up a dialogue with administration can only help perpetuate a stronger rapport with ones superiors.

    I also particularly liked that you mention listening to others’ failures. Such valuable lessons can be taught through failure. Failure can teaches us the significance of reflection and adaptation. Every year I learn so much from failed lessons and strategies, and yet I forget to allow myself to consider those events as teachable moments. I work so hard at reminding my students that there’s value in learning from ones mistakes, that I forget to do that for myself. Thank you for such valuable reminders!

  5. JBlandino says:

    Hi Jen,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. It was inspirational, and great advice not only for new teachers, but those who have been teaching for a long time as well. It can be difficult to go to a conference or professional development class and feel that you are not nearly as effective as the speaker. I like the fact that you mentioned that they have not told you what didn’t work so well, and you have only heard the successes. I also appreciate that you recommended to take what is learned, and meld it into your own class to make it work. Again, great advice! Thank you for your post.

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