Series First Days of School: It's Always Awkward in the Beginning: Reflecting on Teaching After 20 Years

Reflecting on Teaching After 20 Years

Lesson Objective: Reflect on lessons learned from teaching
All Grades / All Subjects / Inspiration


Enjoy your first video for free. Subscribe for unlimited access.

Have questions about subscribing? Click Here to learn more.

Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What has stayed the same over Ms. Wessling's teaching career?
  2. What has changed over Ms. Wessling's teaching career?
  3. How has Ms. Wessling learned from her students?


  • Private message to Amy Moine

Sarah!  After 20 years still "has it!"  A true blue professional at learning and modeling!  Thank you for sharing yourself!

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Michael Burnett
  1. What has stayed the same over Ms. Wessling's teaching career?
    Her belief that questions are more powerful than answers, and that the first move should be connecting with students have stayed the same.
  2. What has changed over Ms. Wessling's teaching career?
    Her philosophy has changed into "Its not what we prove in the paper, its the questions asked along the way," meaning the path of discovery is as important as what is discovered. She has also changed her desire from being liked by students, to respected by students, to wanting to engaging them in loving to learn.
  3. How has Ms. Wessling learned from her students?
    She has learned from watching them become more inquisitive in their search for knowledge, which leads her to want to grown and change to help them in their quest.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Regina Johnson

I agree with your mentor about "being liked" vs. "respected".  I also love your point that questioning is the most important thing.  Yes, you are a true mentor. I saw you a few years ago at the NCTE conference in Las Vegas and you were so kind when I was too "Starstruck" to talk to you.  Now, when I'm looking for ways to improve my practice or encourage kids to love learning, I ask: What would Sarah do?

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Cade Patterson

This video was very helpful in knowing that there is support from mentors that can help new teachers like myself. I also think that it is important to remember that you don’t want to get them to like you. It is more important that the students respect you. Great information to know as I am getting ready to go into the eduation field.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Robert Leabo

SBW, you are a TRUE inspiration to us "newbies.'' Don't ever retire! :) The kids need you and so do all of the aspiring teachers who really need a mentor to look up to. 

Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Sarah Brown Wessling

Oh my goodness, thank you so much! We all need each other -- students, teachers, colleagues, parents, communities -- no one does this work alone. All my best for a fantastic year!


Recommended (1)



  • Transcript

    Sarah:                     How is everybody today?

    Speaker 2:           

    Sarah:                     How is everybody today?

    Speaker 2:            Good.

    Sarah:                     Good. When I think about my first year, 20 years ago, and I look at today, there are some things that have not changed.

                                        What about the thinking that goes along with the reading? Can you predict ...

                                        My belief that questions are more powerful than answers.

                                        Have you figured out how they connect?

                                        My belief that the first move is always connecting to another human being. But the ways in which I have gone about practicing that are really, really different. I thought the answers to good teaching, I thought the answers to learning, were somehow in the paper.

    Speaker 3:            Why do you do what you do?

    Sarah:                     Why do you do what you do?

                                        What I understand now is that, it's not what we prove on the paper, but it's the questions that we ask along the way that are really the pathways to learning, and that's what's so crucial.

                                        Here is your homework, okay? Okay, hang on here.

                                        The other thing that's really changed a lot since my first couple of years of teaching, I remember thinking, "I just want them to like me," which is a really natural thing. And I remember one of my mentors told me, my second year of teaching, she said, "You know Sarah, you kind of have it wrong," she said, "you want kids to respect you more than like you. And if they respect you, then that means that they will also like you in time," which was really an important anchor for me, for many years. But even now, now I'm thinking, "How do I get them to love to learn?"

                                        All right, what other questions? Yeah?

    Speaker 4:            [inaudible 00:01:56]?

    Sarah:                     That's been an evolution, but I think one that's really important, and maybe only happens with experience, I don't know.

                                        See you later.

                                        Or maybe it just happens when you've waited long enough for some of those kids to come back and tell you, years later, "That stuff you did worked."

                                        Good morning. Hey, you!

    Speaker 5:            How's it going?

    Sarah:                     Good.

                                        And I think that that's part of the process. That's part of the gift of having taught for 20 years, is that you can kind of let go of some of that insecurity, and you can trade it for this patience, that in time, these seeds will grow.


Related Blogs

Lesson Planning

Class Culture/ Engagement/ Lesson Planning/ New Teachers/ Professional Learning

School Details

Johnston Senior High School
6501 Northwest 62nd Avenue
Johnston IA 50131
Population: 1548

Data Provided By:



Sarah Brown Wessling
English Language Arts / 10 11 12 / Teacher


TCH Special
46 MIN

Webinar / Teacher Wellness / Summer Learning

TCH Special

Webinar / SEL / Leadership

TCH Special

Webinar / SEL / Professional Learning

TCH Special
45 MIN

Webinar / Professional Learning / Resources


Summer Learning


Lesson Planning


English Language Arts