Letting Go and Holding On—Making It a Great Year


Find ways to hold on to what you learned and what you care about. It is what makes teaching important and it is how we learn.

It is August. And as teachers we are beginning the steps back into the classroom, our thoughts are:

  • What is the first read aloud?
  • How can I integrate more of the student content?
  • What have I learned from PD this summer that I need to bring into my classroom?
  • What is the expectation from my district that I must do in my classroom this year?

It is amazing how August 1st brings all this rushing into our thinking. Some of it is exciting: new books, new ideas, new students and class arrangement but….

In recent years the “but” has gotten larger each year.

The national, state, and local demands on teachers have increased to the point of craziness. Yes, we need to close the achievement gap. Yes, we have students who are struggling.

I know firsthand those students who are not making it each year. I also know the push to try another new idea each year—another set of tests that will show what our students don’t know. I understand the demands of the district that seeks to show the local and national community that they can make a different with public education. (I have been there, done that!)

This summer I retired from teaching. It was a hard decision that did not come easily.

I am now sitting on the other side of the picture and watching as teachers are preparing for the new year. They are excited and ready with new thoughts, new ideas and reformed ideas from what worked and did not work last year.

The issue is that as teachers walking into your local district August PD, it is easy to lose sight of this excitement and wonderment you feel as you begin the year.

I have participated in this every August for about 39 years. A few of those years I actually ran some those PD sessions. Some of them were/are great and some—well let us just say it is easy to get too far away from the classroom and the classroom needs. This leaves teachers with ideas that sound great but really will not make the changes we need.

Sitting on the retired side of the puzzle of education, I just want to encourage each teacher to take time this August to think about:

  • What worked last year?
  • What did you read this summer or what workshop or author did you hear that made your heart sing?
  • What was it you thought would really help your students? YOU do know the students best!

Listen to the August district workshops. There are often good ideas hidden there. But be willing to let go of what does not work and hold on to what excites you, energizes you, and makes you want to be back in the classroom.  If you are excited your students will be there with you!

We learn and our students learn because we care. We are engaged and excited. Make this a year of excitement and caring about what we learn and teach! It will make a difference, I can assure you.

It will not be easy. The push to test, evaluate and assess will be there. It is not going away for now. But what can you do in spite of it? How can you let it help you not stop you?

If you enjoy your year, so will your students!

Happy Teaching this year!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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5 Responses to Letting Go and Holding On—Making It a Great Year

  1. lgrainger125 says:

    How true! I’m really trying hard to hold on to what I know and recently learned and blend it carefully with the district requirements. Only with excitement, passion and truly caring about children will it happen. Thank you for the reminders.

  2. Jaana says:

    Thank you for the words of encouragement! I needed to hear your words today!

  3. This is a phenomenal post that will help many in this community. I will also pass it on to several teachers that I serve with at my school. You have awesome perspective and I look forward to hearing about your new life beyond. xo

  4. Amy Rudd says:

    Thank you for these encouraging words and I hope you enjoy your retirement…rest up and come back-they always need volunteers or tutors to step up! 🙂

  5. elle1955 says:

    Your encouragement means a lot to those of us still in the thick of things. Enjoy your retirement!

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