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NATIONAL FORUM OF TEACHER EDUCATION JOURNAL

VOLUME 24, NUMBERS 1 & 2, 2014

Teaching as The Most Noble Profession of All:


It's the Little Things That Matter*
David E. Herrington, PhD

Alana Collins, PhD

Professor
Coordinator of Leadership Programs
Department of Leadership and Counseling
Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Instructor
Graduate Advisor
Department of Leadership and Counseling
Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Kathy Dodge-Clay, PhD

Maria Elena Meza

Principal - Leon Springs Elem. Sch.


Northside ISD

Principal - Jerry D. Allen Elem. Sch.


Northside ISD

Robert Marcel Branch, PhD

Jerry D. Allen
Invited Speaker
San Antonio, TX

Cody Miller, EdD

Director of Human Resources


Clear Creek ISD

Principal - Rayburn Elem. Sch.


Harlandale ISD
President
La Vernia ISD School Board

Kathleen Kidd-Proctor

Oteka Gibson

Behavior Specialist
District Instructional Coach
San Antonio ISD

Principal
North East ISD
School Improvement Specialist
San Antonio, TX
Abstract

This article contains the thoughts and views of selected educators who were invited to participate
in the New Teachers Project. They have in common a passion for excellence in teaching and
leadership. Each was asked what they things they would tell beginning teachers to make their
journey into the teaching profession more successful. These individuals have worked with
thousands of teachers and children during the past 10 to 35 years. The collaborators in this
project shared their philosophy of teaching and learning, tips for classroom management,
especially for novice teachers (but also for those experienced teachers who are struggling), wellinformed visions of what it takes for a teacher to be successful with children, how to project a
professional image in the community, what it takes to excel as a high caliber teacher, how to
make a huge difference in childrens lives, and finally how to view teaching as a profession
rather than just another job. Their identity as a professional educator is constantly being observed
and evaluated by parents, children, colleagues, administrators, and people in general. The
challenge that the New Teachers Project collaborators face each day is how to enlighten teachers
to view teaching as more than a job or role that can be undertaken one moment and put aside the
next. Convincing teachers that teaching is a career in which each successive day, month, and
year adds up, until it becomes a legacy, one that has touched many lives. It is the collective view
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
of the administrator-collaborators of this project that teachers are to know, unequivocally, that
they are valued and that their work is important. Teachers should be reminded daily that they
have chosen to be a part of the most noble profession of all. It is a profession to be appreciated
and enjoyed but never to be taken lightly.
* New Teachers Project
The New Teachers Project
Superintendents and principals challenge university professors entrusted with educating
and developing future educators that teachers need to enter the profession heads up, fully
aware of the opportunities and challenges that await them. They say that teachers must know
who they are and what they value most of all; that teachers should launch themselves as
individuals who know what they intend to do every moment that they are in the presence of
children; that teachers actions must be purposeful; that teachers need to think of teaching as a
profession, one in which they must establish an image as a caring, aware, and competent person.
The collaborators of the New Teachers Project concur. They argue that teachers must project and
build upon that professional image each and every moment of every day; teachers must,
furthermore, protect their protect image daily by returning to their core values when faced by
extraordinary challenges, reflecting and centering on these things when the going gets tough.
New Teachers Project collaborators further argue that teachers must be open to
opportunities for growth and advancement with an awareness that every day they can do things
that will build a reputation that leads to a professional image, or they can squander opportunities
to demonstrate good judgment, damaging their professional image in an instant. Reputation is so
hard to build, but so easy to throw away in a moment of poor judgment. A case in point comes
from a true story about an educator who was under consideration for a leadership role on her
high school campus. The story was shared in the context of a graduate course in school
leadership.
A few years ago, post-graduate students in educational leadership class were asked the
question, When you were hired for your most recent administrative job, there were
many other individuals who wanted your job. Why do you think you were selected rather
than the other candidates? One individual replied, I have learned what to say and what
not to say in difficult situations. If it is important, then I revisit the matter later when
things have cooled down. Another replied, It is because I know what I want and I am
patient. Another responded, I am careful about my friendships on the job and how I
interact with them. I have to learn when and where I associate with friends. I have to
remain focused on my role and my responsibilities. One individual shared a surprising
yet memorable response. When I came to my school, they saw that I cared about the
students that I knew what I was doing. But there was another individual who, it seemed
was certain to become the next principal -- until one day she became angry when a
student would not quit playing hacky-sack in the lunch line. In a show of arbitrary
exercise of her power over the student, she seized the hacky-sack from his hands and
launched it over the fence. By the time the dust had settled, this person was no longer
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
considered for the position. That is when they decided to promote me instead of her.
(Herrington, D.E., 2010, p. 1)
What is striking about this story is that a lapse in judgment over a seemingly insignificant hackysack incident will be the story remembered about an individual, and very clearly, it was costly to
her. For aspiring educators it is important to be mindful of Avoiding the Hacky-sack Moment,
remaining focused at all times on the reason why you are in the presence of children, ever
mindful of what you are there to accomplish.
Experienced teachers also must know the importance of their work with children. After
many years of soldiering in the profession their contributions often go unrecognized and they
lose their own vision of their value. These veterans of the classroom must have an indelible
vision of their own value and worth, not losing sight of opportunities to grow and develop lest
they become passive and apathetic with every professional encounter with children, parents,
colleagues, and administrators. The professional image is more easily established initially than it
is to reestablish once tarnished through poor decisions about work, family, friends, or colleagues.
Knowing how to begin strong and finish strong each day, in the midst of apathy, meanness,
incompetence, or chaos is the challenge. This is the key to preserving ones enthusiasm and
passion that initially fueled their commitment and vision as educators.
More importantly, teachers must know that the key to thriving in education is to do good
work, a simple phrase borrowed from a colleague, Dr. Sean Kearney, when describing the
advice of his father, Dr. Milo Kearney, on how to be successful as a university professor. Dr.
Milo Kearney had realized a highly successful career in academe as Professor Emeritus within
The University of Texas System. He is an esteemed historian and author as well as a budding
writer and illustrator of childrens literature. The cogent phrase Do good work is sufficient. It
resonates. The New Teachers Project collaborators urge teachers to discipline themselves to talk
about the work while at work and not about people. This principle must be communicated to
teachers both novice and seasoned that there is a more important side to their calling than any
other issue of the moment, which is to serve children. To acquiesce to the darker side of human
temperament, teachers can harm children and other adults, relationships. Careless words or
discretionary actions not grounded in policy, best practice, or good judgment cannot be undone.
The bell cannot be un-rung. Avoiding personal interactions that interfere with good work,
teachers daily must eschew bullying, gossip, and other forms of behavior that undermine others
who are trying to do good work. This interferes with the real purpose of schooling which is to
lead the hearts and minds of children and other adults to a higher level of thinking and behaving.
Ultimately it is teachers job to enlighten children, to show the way out of despair, poverty,
meanness, and apathy.
The title of this article was inspired by an individual who understood how to convey the
importance of teaching. As this writing project grew and came to fruition, a last minute Googlecheck to see if the title was indeed unique, revealed that others share this view of teaching as a
noble profession, most notably blogger Zoe Weil, who has written extensively about teaching. In
her March 4, 2011 blog entitled Teaching: The Most Noble Profession Weil observed,
Teachers are the agents of the future. Will our world be populated by people ready and
able to meet that future as creative and critical thinkers; as wise, compassionate and
knowledgeable citizens; as skilled and motivated solutionaries within their professions?
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
The answer to this question lies with teachers. More than any other profession, teaching
has the power to create a healthy, just, and peaceful world (or not). It has the ability to
seed our society with informed, caring and engaged citizens (or not). It has the capacity
to inspire lifelong learning and a passion for knowledge, understanding, and innovation
(or not). Is there anything more important than this? (p.1)
Weils vision rings true. The message of teaching as nobility is a message ALL teachers
desperately need to hear. They need to hear it often. This past spring, when called upon to
address student teachers on the topic Teaching as a Profession, the obvious legal and ethical
issues related to professionalism came to mind; however, professionalism conveys much more
than that. Principals and superintendents emphatically argue that their most important task in
guiding teachers to choose the right paths, and to avoid the pitfalls. The collaborators in this
project would contend that teachers need to hear how important their work really is and that there
is great dignity in making a difference in the lives of children and adult learners. The
collaborators of the New Teachers Project were asked to assist by providing advice they would
give teachers to help make school a better place for children and adults to thrive and to learn.
The New Teachers Project was designed to report the candid but heart-felt advice that
school administrators developed to inform primarily aspiring teachers and novice teachers, and
also experienced teachers who want to take their careers to the next level; for all who are willing
to read and heed. It was reassuring to know that future teachers could take away from the
university teacher preparation experience the collective wisdom of school leaders, some who
might be their future supervisors. These thoughts, if put in writing, would provide a touchstone
for teachers, a reminder in coming weeks, months, and years, of the opportunities and dangers
ahead as they embark on the journeys that will become their careers. For aspiring teachers, the
words provide a realistic preview of what the job really entails. It will help teachers answer the
question Is this really what I want to do? Most important of all, the collaborators let
prospective teachers know that their success is vital to the very survival, prosperity, and security
of American society. Echoing the memorable sentiment expressed by Mission Control Director
Eugene Kranz of the historic Apollo 13 crisis, the collaborators of this project, understanding the
perils of failing to educate a generation of children, emphatically admonish future teachers that
urgency should be their dominant mindset. When it comes to educating and developing
children Failure is not an option!
Welcome to the Most Noble Profession on Earth
What Every Teacher Needs to Hear
To anyone who has made the decision to become a teacher, if your highest ambition is to
make a difference in the world, you made the right choice. Your work is important. It does
mattermore than you will ever be able to know. One collaborator in this project, Dr. David E.
Herrington, shares a personal journey into the teaching profession and how he learned to see
teaching in a new light. He states,
Though my parents were teachers, I had come to see teaching as something people
became qualified to do in order to have something to fall back on. Was I going to be
like that, one who merely backed into the role of teacher with no other options
available to me? What a dim and undignified view of teaching! I first came to believe in
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
teaching as a good thing to do professionally shortly after deciding to change my major to
education, not before. My decision to change from my declared undergraduate major,
pre-engineering, to secondary social science education was a difficult one for me. I felt I
had given up on my dream. Feeling good about the decision to become a teacher was not
coming easily.
On the day that I attended an orientation session for aspiring teachers at Abilene
Christian College, things changed. I was seated near the back of the auditorium. I was
feeling very much alone and somewhat alienated. What I heard that day, however, made
me sit up and listen more intently than I had listened to anything in my life. I was hearing
something that I desperately needed to hear.
Dr. Milton Findley, a distinguished gentleman with prematurely graying hair, looked
out over the class of more than 40 future teachers and admonished, I want to
congratulate each of you for choosing to become a member of the greatest profession on
earth. It is a noble calling and you are to be commended for making this choice. I do
not remember much more about that meeting, filling out forms and answering questions,
but I have never forgotten Dr. Findleys words. I felt that I was about to embark on a new
journey in which I was going to do something important -- forty years later my opinion
about that has not changed.
Recently Dr. Herrington shared Dr. Findleys inspiring message with 120 future teachers
at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
As teachers, you will hold the future of many children and ultimately of American
society in your hands. With each child you have to the power to build and encourage or
you have the power to discourage and destroy. You create memories for each child every
minute of every day memories that will last a lifetime. How you will be remembered is
your choice every day with every situation you encounter with each child thousands of
interactions every day, each choice making a difference. As you begin this journey, never
allow yourself to feel isolated or alone. Be willing to seek out help from others. Be
willing to ask for guidance from reliable, positive, and encouraging professionals. Be
willing to reach out to others in this difficult and lonely journey.
Several student teachers came up to express to the presenter that they really needed to hear this
message right then! Just as Dr. Finleys message had touched the lives of future teachers when
he first spoke, his message continues to be extended to future generations of future teachers.

On Becoming a Teacher: Some Heartfelt and


Candid Tips for a Successful Career
Collaborators in this project were most generous with their time and most willing to
reveal the lessons learned from their own journeys into teaching, administration, and in some
cases, parenting. They have provided roadmaps for navigating the teaching profession, marking
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
the difficult turns and dangerous spots in the road, helping teachers to stay on course, not losing
sight of the destination. We live in an age of bad news, negativity, and despair about the state of
education in America. Author William Faulkner, in his 1950 Nobel Prize Banquet speech, was
determined to set the record straight regarding public opinions about him drawn from his
writings. Many had concluded that he was pessimistic regarding the future of mankind. He
defiantly countered in his speech: I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail
(para. 3).
Similarly, optimism in face of an uncertain future is critical to building a generation of
teachers who can lead with certainly and clarity as to the mission. We credit the collaborators of
this project, for not giving in to the doom and gloom, the fog that would dampen the spirits of
aspiring teachers. Sounding an optimistic note, the collaborators of the New Teachers Project
provide a hopeful and calming presence through their words, reassuring teachers entering the
profession that everything is going to be okay that as teachers they can make a difference.
Collectively they admonish: May you complete the journey into the teaching profession with
the safety and reassurance that comes from knowing that you are not alone and that you shall not
merely have endured, but shall have prevailed in touching the lives of thousands of children and
adults along the way.
Dr. Alana Collins, Texas A&M University-San Antonio
Dr. Alana Collins is the former Executive Director of Special Education for Southwest
Independent School District and is an adjunct professor and graduate advisor for the Department
of Leadership and Counseling at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Dr. Collins has extensive
experience in the legal and ethical arenas of education and is highly sought for her knowledge in
those areas. Dr. Collins advice relates to the kinds of things teachers often fail to consider when
beginning the careers as teachers. Dr. Collins notes that most teachers get in trouble over the
following issues. She warns new teachers to be aware of the traps and avoid the pitfalls.
Understand what chain-of-command and chain-of-communication mean. Never go
over the head of your supervisor. If you have any question about proper protocol or procedure,
ask. Working within the system, following policy is the surest way to remaining under the radar
so that you can focus on your work and learn your craft as a teacher.
Dress professionally to be taken seriously. Dress appropriately. Show that you have a
professional focus. Coming to work in flip-flops and overly-casual dress communicates lower
expectations in a professional work environment. Every day on the job you are communicating
to administrators, other teachers, parents, and children who you are and what you are about.
Dress modestly and appropriately regardless of what others are wearing. Protect your image as a
professional who cares and who has high expectations and strong values.
Know and follow school district policy. Become familiar with school district policy as
it relates to your work. Dont ever be caught outside of the policy framework in your actions and
words. If in doubt, ask. Most school district policies are now on-line at the school district website.
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Speak and write with appropriate grammar and spelling. Always use spell check.
Always have a colleague check your writing before hitting the send button or print command. Be
reluctant to hit the send button. Save and read your thoughts at a later time before sending. When
your email or memo has an error, people will stop reading, circle your error or oversight, and fail
to read your message. Your credibility will take a considerable ding with every careless
oversight.
Avoid the reply-to-all button. Send email messages only to those who need to know.
Keep communication simple. Some things can be communicated verbally. Avoid personal
communication on school email. Your school district email is a public document and the school
may be required to turn over your emails if they are requested by a public information request.
Use private email for private business and restrict private emails as much as possible to afterschool. Above all, dont engage in email warfare which tends to escalate rather than calm things
down.
Parents want to know all about who is teaching their children. They know that their
teachers on-line presence and history can be found on Facebook and other venues. Make
serious use of privacy settings on Facebook. As teachers, especially in smaller school districts,
your life is a fish-bowl existence. Be extremely careful about what gets posted and tagged. Be
careful who you hang with or what activities you engage in publicly. Cameras are everywhere.
Be vigilant and protect your public and professional image. Its your most important asset.
Be committed to yourself and to the profession. Good teaching is needed now more
than at any time in our history
Ms. Oteka Gibson, North East Independent School District
Oteka Gibson has been a principal for the North East Independent School District in San
Antonio, Texas. Her work directing teachers who teach children from economically
disadvantaged circumstances has been outstanding in recent years. Her commitment to student
learning and guiding teachers to make sound, informed educational decisions based on data is
clear in her words of advice for new teachers.
Read and learn educational research. Don't let your district or principal be responsible
for this for you. They may offer great training--or they may not--but make sure that you are
reading quality educational literature. (Start with Marzano and know his research thoroughly.)
Don't settle for status quo. You have carefully selected a hard job--highly rewarding
and powerful like few other jobs--but extremely difficult. You hold the future of 20-200 kids in
your hands (depending on your assignment).
A poor teacher can set students back years and some students never recover. Think
about the number of students impacted positively or negatively by an excellent or poor teacher
(respectively) over the course of an educator's career. Remember that every day matters and
doing the same old thing doesn't cut it.
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Students must grow academically by at least one year under your instruction. If they
are below grade level, they must grow by MORE than one year. This is why it is important to
know (and be able to implement) the proven practices in the research.
Know the data--where your kids are and where they need to be by the end of the
year. Use the best measures that you can, but if you haven't figured out what the best measure is,
start somewhere! At least, use reading fluency or number fluency (or maybe that is your best
assessment for what you need to measure). Set benchmarks for throughout the year so that you
can see if you are getting kids to where they need to be.
Empower your students with their own data and classroom data. They need to know
the expectations in order to better reach them. (Research indicates that this is effective, yet few
educators use it to leverage higher levels of learning.)
Learn other high-leverage strategies so that students are as successful as they can be
while you are their teacher. If you dont know what these are, ask until you can find someone
who knows and can help you.
Set the standard for respect in your classroom by how you treat others and talk
about others--first the students, then your peers and don't forget your superiors. Students see it
all!
Every child should feel loved and wanted in your classroom. Your frustration has a
negative impact not only on learning, but potentially on the child for the rest of his life. He may
remember some silly off-hand remark forever.
Above all, don't fall prey to talking trash at school. You are a professional--if you
need to vent, vent at home! But be careful--even venting at home can become a habit and then
the negativity starts to take over in your life. That's not a pretty picture.
About the teaching profession: This is big!! What you are doing is huge!!! Never
take it lightly. If it doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to find a different job. With over 50% of
Texas' students in poverty, educators have to be the best they have ever been. You make an
incredible impact as a teacher. Thank you for choosing the profession and good luck to you and
your future students!
Dr. Cody Miller, Harlandale Independent School District
Every principal has a different perspective on what a new teacher needs to know to be
effective in todays classroom. Dr. Cody Miller provides an important perspective on working
with children at the elementary level. His work with special needs children has been recognized
by school administrators who work in the minority serving, economically disadvantaged
communities where he has served. Dr. Miller has been Academic Dean for Indian Creek
Elementary School and Assistant Principal at Scobee Middle School in Southwest Independent
School District. Currently Dr. Miller is the Principal of Rayburn Elementary School in
Harlandale Independent School District. Dr. Miller is completing his Superintendent certification
through Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He currently serves as a member of the Board of
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Trustees for La Vernia Independent School District. His sensitivity to the very different
circumstances that children face, during their schooling and home life, is reflected in his
writings. Dr. Miller also has recently published a book that can guide teachers through the
Response to Intervention (RTI) process which is being adopted in some school districts. The
following suggestions have resonance with administrators and teachers who care passionately
about teaching and learning. Dr. Millers views are unconventional but highly respected and very
much needed for dealing with todays children in highly at-risk schools.
Homework should not be graded. When you grade student work, your purpose is to
assess a students understanding of material, ability to apply concepts, and the knowledge and
skills that they have learned in your classroom. In order to accomplish this purpose, you must
control for the variables under which you assess student work. These variables include the
amount of time available for the student to complete the task and type of assistance provided to
each student. Not every child has the same advantage in these two areas. So the environment in
which the student is working and other considerations should be taken into account. When
grading homework the teacher should consider that one student may have had a snack before
working, one-to-one parental assistance while working, a quiet, appropriate place to work, and
someone to verify that the work was done correctly including an opportunity to correct mistakes.
Another student working on the same assignment may go home to care for siblings, prepare
meals for the family, may have no place to work on homework without interruption, and may
have no adult assistance with the work. Grading these two students on the same standard when
the variables were so different is simply unjust. This is not to say that students should not be
expected to do homework, or that practice is not good for kids. It is simply to say that we should,
as educators, be cognizant of the various home environments of the students in our class and
should count homework as extra practice rather than as a summative assessment of a students
knowledge or skills. The grade should not count against the child.
Over-plan your lessons. Prepare more than you think you will be able to teach. It is
always better to have more prepared than too little because you will inevitably have lessons
which move much more quickly than you anticipated. When you reach the end of your prepared
lesson before reaching the end of your instructional time, disorganization and classroom
management problems will arise. During my first year, a great teacher told me that when all else
fails or when I reach the end of my prepared materials, have books ready for read-alouds. This
great advice was useful and emphasized to me the need to be over-prepared and have a backup
plan ready at any time.
You cant teach until youve gained and maintained control. Many times I see
teachers who are gifted at teaching, but struggle with class management. The best taught lesson
is of little value if you only have the attention of half of your students. Focusing for the first few
days on nothing but management and routines will pay huge dividends throughout the school
year as these will set the stage for success in teaching and learning. Take the time to make sure
students understand the expectations and norms in your class, that they practice those
expectations and norms, and that they know what will happen if they dont work within your
class norms. Then, be consistent. If you tell the students that you are going to call home, do it.
Empty threats will undermine any class management system.
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Have unbelievably high standards. If you were preparing for a marathon, but told
yourself that making it half way would be good enough, you would be unlikely to make it all the
way in your preparation or on marathon day. You must set the expectation that all students will
succeed if you have any hope for them to do so. You must convey that confidence in parent
conferences, in your instruction, and in your conversations with students, colleagues, and
supervisors. Then you must work to do everything within your power to make sure it happens.
Tutor, work with small groups, work with individuals, do home visits, come in early, seek out
professional development, observe colleagues, find the best teachers and ask them how they do
it. Whatever it takes, commit to being the catalyst for your students success.
Read (aloud), read (together), read (silently), read (in class), read (in halls), read (in
the cafeteria), read (at recess), read (on the bus), read (with friends), and read! When
children learn to play a musical instrument, it is with the intention that they will play
independently. When we coach children in sports, it is with the intention that they will play
independently. Whenever we coach children, our goal is always for them to perform well without
our assistance. It stands to reason that we also teach our students core academic knowledge and
skills with the goal of preparing them to use the knowledge and skills independently. Thus,
students should be reading often. Any time students are between activities, they should be
reading. There is nothing we do in school that is more important that building a passion for
literacy.
Be intentional about parent involvement. Communicate with parents in every possible
way about your classroom and the things that your students should be learning. Make phone calls
to every parent, send home newsletters regularly, have a daily communication log for behavior
and information, create and regularly update a class website, and make home visits. Parents
appreciate being informed and aware about what their children are doing in school. This will also
build a positive relationship with your parents so that when you have to make phone calls or
contacts about problems the parents will not feel that you are always negative in your
communication with them. Many parents, even those you may think are least likely, are willing
and able to volunteer to assist you on a regular basis. Solicit their help and find meaningful ways
to involve parents in your class on a regular basis. Ask them to read to a small group, to sit with
a student that has trouble focusing, to organize your classroom library, to make copies, to prepare
materials, or to mentor students. Your parents are often an untapped resource that can be
invaluable to you.
Find out who the best teachers are and listen to them. There are great teachers in
every school and they are a great source of assistance and professional development. Do not just
listen to who says they are good; ask around to find out which teachers consistently have high
performing classes, rooms where students consistently come out knowing more, doing more, and
outperforming everyone else. Then ask them how they do it. Ask to observe them. Ask to see
their lesson plans. Plan with them. You should also ask who the best teachers are in the district.
Once you find them, pick their brain. You learn to be the best by learning from the best and
working to improve upon what they teach you.
Your curriculum is the state standards, not the textbook. Too many teachers make the
mistake of following a textbook from the front cover to the back cover without critically
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
analyzing the correlation between the book and the state standards. When planning, identify the
standard that you intend to address, and then identify the sections of the text that address that
standard. Determine if there are gaps in the text and seek out other materials that can be used to
supplement to fill in the gaps. Address the state standard fully and completely using the resource
at your disposal rather than blindly following a textbook that may or may not be written to
address the standards you are responsible for teaching. Remember that textbooks are a resource
and like all other resources, they should be used with intentionality to address student needs.
Cooperative learning is great. It compels students to have structured conversation.
But it is not necessarily quiet. Consistently quiet classrooms are good for teachers, but rarely
meet the needs of students. At the same time, conversation without purpose is wasted time. A
master teacher learns how to provide the structure needed for students to have successful
engagement that is focused on a specific standard or objective. They know when to allow
conversation and when to redirect students to get them back on task individually or as a class.
Learning to find that balance takes practice, trial and error, and the balance changes every year.
Each group of students comes with a different dynamic and requires slight adjustments in your
teaching style to meet their needs. Be prepared to adjust regularly, but always seek to find ways
to provide meaningful opportunities for engagement.
Teaching is tough. You have to be a teacher for the right reasons. Without the right
motivation it is easy to become another burn out. Know why you are here. Write it down. Hang it
in your classroom. Stay focused on your purpose for joining the profession. Know that you will
have long hours, be underappreciated, work harder than many of your friends in other
professions, suffer physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, and get sick several times during
your first year as your body adjusts to the germs that kids often bring to your classroom. Your
payoff will be when your students come back to see you in five, ten, fifteen years to let you
know about the impact you had on their lives. This is a great profession that you have chosen,
but it is not an easy path. You will not get rich. You have the summer off, but you earn it with
long hours during the school year that go far beyond a forty hour work week. But hearing a
parent or student tell you that you were the teacher that made the big difference in their lives
makes all of it worthwhile.
Ms. Kathleen Kidd-Proctor, San Antonio Independent School District
Kathleen Kidd-Proctor has served San Antonio Independent School District in a variety
of administrative roles. She is a national trainer on classroom management and has developed an
early childhood behavior intervention series on Outrageous Behavior. Ms. Proctors advice to
teachers comes in the areas managing behavior, addressing the needs of special needs children,
building community within the school and reaching out to parents to engage them completely in
the teaching and learning process. Her Outrageous Behavior seminars center about solving
problems related children from difficult circumstances and teaching parents and teachers how to
bring out the best behaviors in children. She stresses relationships, self-insight, listening, bullyprevention, and professional behavior in the workplace as key to the success of teachers and the
children they serve.
12

DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Relationships. Relationships with children. Relationships with custodians.
Relationships with parents. Relationship with colleagues and administrators are the key to your
success. Respect and courtesy are critical to good relationships. You can do nothing well as a
teacher without well-cultivated relationships. In relationships with others you will thrive as a
teacher. In isolation from others, you will fail; and you will be miserable. Reach out to others to
assist and encourage them. Reach out to others to seek help and learn from them.
Know yourself. Know yourself very well. Before stepping into the classroom as a
profession, know if teaching feels right for you. This is critical. If teaching is not for you, get out
immediately and find something that makes you happy. Dont wait until you have already ruined
hundreds of childrens lives and hopes for the future.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Be quiet and listen. Listen to others. Take time to listen.
Acknowledge what others are saying. Be known as one who listens...to children, to parents, to
colleagues.
Conversations matter. What you say, and how you say it, makes a difference. It makes a
difference between motivating and demotivating a student. Words can hurt. Words can heal. You
have the power to build and encourage. You have the power to discourage and tear down. What
you say and how you say it make all the difference in the world.
What you do speaks more loudly than what you say. Children imitate adult behavior
not what they say. When you act out or gossip about others, children learn that bullying behavior
is ok. They do it too. Children will learn from your example when you are intentionally
thoughtful and respectful toward others.
Be organized. Organize your personal life so that you can meet the obligations of your
important work with children. Be on time. Be focused. Be prepared.
Avoid toxic conversations, gossip, and chisme. Those who survive by the rumor mill,
also perish by the rumor mill. When you come to work, talk about the work, not about people.
Focus on keeping each dyadic relationship on its own merits, not based on cliques, or factions
that seem to exist everywhere. People will try to draw you in and set you up. But keep each
relationship separate and unique. Turn gossipy conversations back to discussions about how to
do the work better.
Keep intimate personal conversations and work related rants away from the
workplace. Dont expect co-workers to be your friend and confidant. Sometimes they cant. This
can come back to harm you in ways that you might never expect. Try to maintain close
friendships and confidants outside the work setting. In the workplace associate with individuals
who have a strong work ethic and a genuine passion for excellence in teaching. If you must talk
about things at work, talk about the work. Not each other. Be known as an individual who is
focused on helping others including students, including colleagues. Be an encourager. Not a
discourager.
Keep close personal relationships away from the workplace at all costs. Nothing can
be more destructive. Know why you are at school every minute you are there. Come to school to
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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
do good work. Keep your on-campus relationships professional and above board. There are
many, many other places to establish personal relationships, especially places where you will
find individuals with strong values consistent with the kind of work you will be doing, who
respect and value who you are and what you do with children: church organizations, religious
societies, volunteer work, professional organizations, etc. Meet people who value education, who
value who you are and what you do, and have personal goals in their lives. Your own level of
thinking and acting will rise to (or sink to) the level of those around you. Remember that
teaching is a career. It is a profession. Not just another job.
Connect with individuals who are positive, who collaborate, who give freely of their
time, who are known for the excellent work. To be a teacher of children you need to have that
positive, thoughtful presence that you can build with positive people in your life. Avoid overly
needy people (at work and away from work) who become sponges for your attention, time, and
resources. Find individuals who are self-sufficient and have meaning in their lives. Again, keep
your personal relationships away from the workplace. You have the important privilege and task
of working with and teaching children. Dont jeopardize it.
Cell phones and children do not mix. As a teacher you must be focused on children
every second. Teachers talking on cell phones or text messaging while on duty communicates to
children that they can act out without being detected. Children can get into dangerous or unsafe
situations in an instant. Because you are a public servant, parents and community members will
not understand divided attention while you are responsible for their children. People will form
judgments about you as a professional when they see you inattentive to your work and easily
distracted especially at a time when our educational systems are struggling and children are
failing.
Time is of the essence. Every moment of every day is a teachable moment. Teach
constantly. Praise. Redirect. Correct. Provide feedback. Provide instructions. Restate your
instructions. Praise. Children thrive on your feedback. Evaluate. Redirect. Re-teach. Every
moment is important. Every minute of every day matters. In the classroom. Waiting in line.
Walking in file down the hall. Reinforce lessons by observing. Sing songs. Keep their minds
engaged. Except for a few minutes every day give unstructured play time before resuming. Stay
off of cell phones, texting, and email. You can do that later. You only have the children right this
moment. Each moment spent with each child will never come again.
No argument has to be won right this minute. Situations need to be calmed and
deescalated. Most non-emergency situations can be revisited at a later time in a calmer and more
reflective light. It is best to allow tempers to cool and revisit when things are slower and not so
hectic. This will give you more control over the situation and more power.
Dr. Kathy Dodge-Clay, Northside Independent School District

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DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Dr. Dodge-Clay is highly sought as a speaker, trainer, and adjunct professor. She is Principal
of Leon Springs Elementary School in Northside Independent School District. Dr. DodgeClay is involved with the Trinity Principal Center and is on graduate faculties at Texas A&M
University-San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio. In 2011 Dr. DodgeClay won the National Association of Elementary School Principals Associations
prestigious Honor Council Excellence Award. She is a well-respected presenter for the Texas
Association of Elementary Supervisors and Principals. In 2012 Dr. Dodge Clay published a
book on school administration called Synergistics. Dr. Dodge-Clay emphasizes team work,
home and work balance, and individual consideration for children with different needs.
Look at each child as a unique person and take time to find their strengths.
Let your authentic experiences and observations guide your teaching. Remember
what you learned at school, but use real life experiences to shape your teaching philosophy and
skills.
Make learning fun and relevant.
Get to know each child so that when they misbehave you will have more insight and
approaches to use in helping her. Always keep in mind that when a child is misbehaving that
the behavior is ALWAYS symptomatic of something else going on. Be patient and find out
more about the child and learn from others how best to help the child learn better behaviors.
Be flexible. Blessed are the flexible for they shall never get bent out of shape.
Remember that every child in your classroom belongs to someone. Parents send us
the best children they have!
When kids are the least lovable, that is when they need to be loved the most.
Do not stay at school until six or seven every night. Allow yourself one to two late
nights. Make sure you are exercising and eating right and taking care of yourself and your
family..it will make you a much better teacher in the long run.
Teamwork. This is a must and one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching. It involves
collaboration and fun with your team members.
In times of diminishing resources, be resourceful. Pinterest is one example of great
ideas that are free.
Ms. Maria Elena Meza, Northside Independent School District
Maria Elena Meza has spent the last two years as Principal of Jerry D. Allen Elementary
School in Northside Independent School District. Previously, she served for several years as
Assistant Principal under the schools namesake, former Principal Jerry D. Allen. During their
years at Lackland City Elementary School, Ms. Meza and Mr. Allen distinguished their school as
15

DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
the highest achieving school in the region that served more than 90% economically
disadvantaged and 90% children of color. Together they produced four consecutive years of 90%
or higher pass rate for their students including children identified as having special needs. Ms.
Meza advised new teachers about balancing their lives between work and school and the
importance of a supportive home environment.
Expect to devote a lot of time and long hours to the profession. To be an effective
educator requires a lot of planning, preparation, and ongoing professional development.
You have to work at balancing family and career. Your family has to understand that
it requires a commitment to the profession on your part and it really helps if your family is
supportive.
Teaching is an extremely meaningful and purposeful profession. By teaching or
serving as a principal, you are not just teaching reading, math, writing...you are saving lives and
it really makes your own life meaningful.
As an educator, you will never be rich. But you will make a comfortable living and
have a very satisfying life, especially in knowing that you made a difference in the lives and
futures of our students and their families.
Mr. Jerry D. Allen, Retired
Mr. Jerry D. Allen, namesake of the former Lackland City Elementary School, has been
the invited speaker and panelist in San Antonio as a successful principal who has consistently
produced the highest results among economically disadvantaged children of the West side of San
Antonio. His quotes are now part of the literature in articles that have featured his voice and
insights into achieving what few principals have been able to do. Mr. Allens philosophy is
centered around the view that teaching is more than anything else a helping profession.
When I interview you for a teaching job, I do not want to know how smart you are.
I want to know how much heart you have. I can teach you how to teach but I cannot teach you
how to love a child.
Dont try to impress me by the pass rate in your class or campus. If you tell me that
80% of your students are passing in math, ELA, or any other subjectif you are proud of that,
then I do not want my child or my grandchild in your class or in your school because that means
you are willing to let 20% of your children fail. Every number is a child, and every child matters.
Strive to find out when your students families have fallen on hard times. When we
can address the familys needs we can help the child. Children learn best when they come from
healthy families. So that is where we have to begin and reach out to those families.
Be willing to volunteer to do whatever is needed to improve learning. Be willing to
tutor. Be willing to learn from teachers who are good at what they do.
16

DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
Be willing to ask questions when you do not know something. That is the only way
you can learn and get better.
Dr. Robert Marcel Branch, Clear Creek Independent School District
Dr. Robert Marcel Branch is the Director of Human Resources at Clear Creek
Independent School District. He previously served as Principal of Clear View Education Support
Center and is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership at the University of St. Thomas.
Be aware of the legal ramifications of your actions or inactions as a teacher. Under
the law teachers are regarded as public officials. The U.S. and State Constitution contain
safeguards to protect persons from the actions of government officials. As a public school
teacher you are a government official. Students have rights under the law that you must exercise
due diligence to respect. You may not say or do anything that shows a bias for or against
individuals who are members of any religion; you must exercise intentional and mindful fairness
when dealing with children of both genders; no preferential treatment, intentional or
unintentional; the same is true regarding a childs ethnicity, race, or national origin; special needs
children are entitled by law to a Free, and Appropriate Public Education. Do not be the reason
that a students rights under the law have been ignored or trampled upon.
Respect the boundaries and persons of others. Respect the sensibilities of others. Take
no chance of being accused of sexual harassment or discrimination. Keep your hands and
physical self from away from colleagues who do not feel comfortable with your attention,
especially if they tell you that your attention makes them uncomfortable. Avoid double entendre
comments or innuendos suggesting anything sexual. Dont repeat off color jokes or forward
inappropriate content on the internet, even in fun. It will come back to haunt you later.
Avoid any comments or references that paint individuals in a comical or ridiculous
light because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other
circumstance that makes them more vulnerable to ridicule and bullying. Dont model bullying
behavior. Dont do it. Dont tolerate it. The courts do not think such behavior is funny. Neither
should you. Take action to stop it when you see it. Dont let children ridicule or bully each other.
Its up to you to create a culture of respect.
Take RTI, 504, ARD, LPAC, G/T and other due process matters seriously. Dont cut
corners or take shortcuts. Understand what is required of you with each childs IEP. Learn all
you can about these processes and what your duties are as a teacher should be. If these processes
are not well-defined and developed you should do all you can to learn how facilitate that process.
More importantly do all you can to help each child learn while waiting for these processes to
take shape and increase in efficiency. In the meantime, volunteer to serve on committees
developed to improve these processes.
Dont place yourself or your school district in jeopardy of being sued for tort.
Remember to follow policy when it comes to discipline. Discipline that results in injury to a
child can result in legal liability. Make sure your classroom management procedures are clear
and effective. Be fair. Be reasonable. Physical punishment that places students in an unsafe
17

DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
situation is bullying behavior whether or not physical harm results. The physical and emotional
safety of children should be foremost in your mind at all times. Avoid situations in which you
assume responsibility for transporting children in your own vehicle. Ensure that school operated
vehicles are under control and in compliance with the law at all times.
Spend very little time talking with or hanging with individuals who have grown
cynical or who hate their job. Dont stay in a school where the professional culture is not
strong. Every day of every year in teaching you are building a new entry on your resume that can
be documented as an example of teaching excellence.
Get your life in order. Teaching will demand your full attention. Spend your
weekends in activities that build you up as a person. Limit alcohol consumption to reasonable
levels. You have to be ready to give your best performance on Monday mornings when you least
feel like it. The kids are watching and learning from your example. Give them your best. Be at
your best every day.
Remember the cookie jar. In this business there always are people looking very closely
at what you do. The funds used for schools come from the public. They do not belong to you or
any other individual. When it comes to money know the federal and state laws. Know school
district policy and follow it to the letter. Let no opportunity arise where you are questioned for
the way in which you handle funds intended for children. Report any suspicious misuse of funds
to your school district internal investigator. When Federal funds are involved, report suspicious
actions or expenditures to the Office of the Inspector General (U.S. Department of Education).
Protect yourself and do not allow yourself to become part of any effort to conceal or deceive
when it comes to public funds.
Completing the Journey with Competence and Dignity
Finally, the novice teacher should remember that teaching and learning are two of the
most critical processes for a successful career in teaching. Be constantly in the business of doing
both. Teachers are constantly finding new ways to help others understand things. Teachers
model for students the qualities of openness, passion to learn and try new things, curiosity,
willingness to change an opinion, a thought, a way of saying things, or way of behaving toward
others.
Teachers who make a difference are seldom confused about their mission. They
understand that teaching is not just another job. It is a profession. It is a career. They protect
their reputation as a professional educator by the way they present themselves in the classroom,
in the halls of the school, and in the community. Teachers who develop a reputation as hard
working, willing to go over and beyond the minimum requirements of the job are those who
advance and expand their horizons are the ones who influence and shape the profession in much
the same way they shape and influence the lives of children, parents, and other teachers.
Teachers who understand this dont allow anyone in their personal and professional lives treat
them as less than that. Great teachers associate with others who value their work, who act
professionally, who work hard, and who help others.
18

DAVID E. HERRINGTON, ALANA COLLINS, KATHY DODGE-CLAY, MARIA ELENA


MEZA, JERRY D. ALLEN, ROBERT MARCAL BRANCH, CODY MILLER, KATHLEEN
KIDD-PROCTOR and OTEKA GIBSON
What advice have the collaborators of the New Teachers Project offered? Emulate great
teachers. Seek to spend more time with them. Learn their thoughts and feelings about children
and teaching. Protect your brand, your reputation, as a professional educator. Who you are, what
you say, and what you do matters. Grow as a professional.
In conclusion, anyone who has chosen teaching as a career is to be commended and
celebrated. Dr. Findley once imparted this vision, which is now imparted to all teachers.
Teaching is the most noble of all professions and the most demanding. Treat it with respect.
Take pride in it. Build up the profession of teaching. Support teaching. Defend teaching. Improve
teaching. Teaching is a way of thinking. It is a way of life.
References
Faulkner, W. F. (1950, December 10). I decline to accept the decline of man (Nobel Prize
Speech). Stockholm, Sweden. Retrieved from:
http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/faulkner/faulkner.htm
Herrington, D.E. (2010, September 30). The leadership challenge--Avoiding the hacky sack
moment. Retrieved from:
http://superintendencytamusa.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html
Weil, Z. (2011, March 4). Teaching: The most noble profession. Retrieved from
https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/03/04-0

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