Teaching Has Taught Me... Nothing

May 10, 2017 / by Dr. Elissa Smith

It doesn’t seem possible that my time in the classroom is over.

At the start of this school year, I accepted a position as a principal, after spending the last 15 years in the classroom. At some points, those years seemed to zoom by, but there were moments where time seemed to stand still, the daily struggles nearly overwhelming. Thankfully, the fulfilling days far outweighed the tough times.

While I'm enjoying the challenges and rewards afforded by my career shift, I have times where I'm nostalgic for my days in the classroom. As much as I enjoyed being a teacher, I also revel in discovery, and I expect to learn from each of my jobs. In reflecting on my teaching career, I realized that teaching has taught me... nothing.

teaching has taught me nothing

Nothing gives me more hope than watching students encourage each other.

Nothing can unite a community like overcoming a tragedy together.

Nothing is more motivating than watching a student overcome a serious obstacle.

Nothing hurts students more than telling them they aren’t capable.

Nothing tests your patience more than an aptly timed fire drill.

Nothing shows off what you’re made of like an unannounced observation on the day before a holiday break.

Nothing can crush a student like receiving biting sarcasm from someone he/she looked up to.

Nothing improves performance like asking (and accepting) feedback from students and peers.

Nothing damages a relationship between an adult and a student like an adult who needs the last word.

Nothing feels better than learning one of your students is going to be a teacher.

Nothing makes me smile like getting a thank-you (for changing my life for the better) note from a former student.

Nothing is more emotionally exhausting than truly caring about your students, but...

Nothing is more rewarding than building relationships through truly caring about your students.

And finally,

Nothing will make me happier than to help continue to support educators who work day in and day out to help students discover a love of learning.


Thanks for nothing.

Topics: Professional Learning, Motivation, Leadership

Dr. Elissa Smith

Written by Dr. Elissa Smith

Dr. Elissa Smith began her teaching career in 2001 and she is currently the PreK-6 Principal at Lyndonville Central School District in rural Western New York. She was previously a K-12 Spanish teacher, the AVID (College Preparation) Coordinator, and also taught college-level communication courses. Elissa earned her Ph.D. (focused on Education Policy) from Niagara University. Her research centers on rural education and college-and-career preparation. She is also a New York Educator Voice Policy Fellow with America Achieves. Connect with Elissa on Twitter: @SraSmithLCS

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