Lessons Learned

As I complete my thirteenth year as an educator, I would like to share thirteen lessons learned throughout my time as a teacher and/or principal.

 I’ve come to realize great educators take responsibility for their own learning rather than waiting for the school district to tell them when and what to learn.

2. Great educators take responsibility for student learning and believe wholeheartedly that failure to reach mastery is not an option. By the same token, they understand that failure is a success in learning.

3. Great educators continuously rethink the way in which they learn and are comfortable with being uncomfortable. They work to remain intellectually curious inside and outside the classroom.

4. Great teachers never fail to plan and understand that 90% of differentiation happens before the students ever enter the classroom.

5. Talking about great ideas and actually putting these ideas into action are two very different things. Great educators let their actions speak for themselves.

6. I’ve experienced first hand that excellence doesn’t happen by accident. Great educators believe there are no 9 to 5 jobs in education, only opportunities to make a difference.

7. As an educator, if you find yourself stuck between two decisions, I’ve learned the one that requires more work is the best decision for kids.

8. As a school leader or teacher, “Because I said so” or “Because its the way we have always done it” is never an appropriate response to the relevant question “Why?”

9. “No news is good news” is no longer the case when it comes to parent communication. Effective educators strive to establish partnerships with parents to support student learning. Great teachers understand this relationship may be the most important ingredient in a child’s success.

10. Great teachers refrain from grading students during formative assessments and assist students in learning from their successes, failures, mistakes and misconceptions.

11. “I’ve never heard of a student not doing his work; it’s our work he’s not doing.” If you give homework at all, it should be meaningful, purposeful, efficient, personalized, doable, and inviting. Most important, great teachers allow students to freely communicate when they struggle with homework and can do so without penalty.

12. Competition can’t beat collaboration! Great educators improve the curriculum together. They not only share responsibility for the achievement of all students but also admit other teachers contribute to their success.

13. “I see the student as myself.” Great teachers move beyond the narrow vision of content, skills, and knowledge and ensure that all of their student’s educational needs are met. They are committed to educating the whole child.

What lessons have you learned?  Please share.

Stay connected, Shawn


  1. maureen said:

    As always, thank you for sharing your wisdom. I plan to share this post with my administrator who is an administrator similar to you.

    May 19, 2012
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks Maureen for taking the time to read and comment. You bring up many important “Lessons Learned” or Tenets in your latest post, “Pruning the Path Towards Effective Work.” (http://teachwellnow.blogspot.com/2012/05/pruning-path-towards-effective-work.html) I enjoy thinking, learning, sharing, and growing with you through Twitter, Edchat, and reading your blog frequently. I hope our paths cross one day! Thanks again, Shawn

      May 19, 2012
  2. Candice Logan-Washington said:

    In addition to thirteen lessons aforementioned, having an understanding your individual classroom and school culture is essential to your success. Failing to do so will be evident in your instruction and reflective in your students.

    June 6, 2012
  3. kharris said:

    Thanks for the lessons learned. Number 2, challenging students and failure is not an option encompasses many of the lessons such as collaborating, deciding the best option for the students, and being a lifetime learner. Reflection is key. Be available and open to your students without penalty.

    June 7, 2012
  4. Stacey Enty said:

    When is comes to discipline , one of my lessons, or best practices in administration is to thoroughly gather all the evidence/information first, before determining any consequences. Parents are quick to conclude that there was an underlying cause for their child’s inappropriate behavior.

    June 8, 2012
  5. Shawn Blankenship said:

    Thanks Stacey for commenting and adding an important lesson learned. Investigating and gathering all necessary evidence is critical in making fair, consistent, and accurate decisions. Just as important is thinking things through and avoiding quick premature decisions that can set the precedent for future decisions.

    I also would like to add the importance of listening and not taking any referral/report lightly. For instance, a student may report that another student called him “freckle face” and many administrators may let such a comment slide by. For the student, this comment may have been very hurtful and possibly have been the fifth time he/she has heard it in the same day. It only takes a few minutes to address these matters and yet can make a difference in the life of a child.

    Lesson Learned: As an administrator, ask yourself when making decisions, “What would I expect the principal to do if this were my own child.” Answering this simple question makes many decisions black and white. Thanks Stacey for commenting.

    June 8, 2012
  6. Colleen Cotton said:

    As we head into summer it is good to reflect and prepare for next year. After 14 years, I have learned that change is inevitable, and nothing is certain, especially in education.

    June 15, 2012
  7. Shawn Blankenship said:

    Terrific “Lesson Learned” Colleen. My favorite part about summer is having time to reflect and begin thinking about the possibilities of the upcoming school year. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparation is essential to a strong beginning especially if you plan to implement any fresh new ideas.

    Without exerting genuine effort and real intention into your self-reflection, you are wasting your time. The unexamined teacher can lead to ineffective and outdated lessons year after year. Times change, technologies change, best practices change, and you must change in order to adapt and remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education. Thanks Colleen for adding to the discussion.

    June 15, 2012

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