Long time no blog!
At the start of this school year I had hopes of blogging every week, if not every other week. Then it became every month. Now it’s just become….well, barely at all! Today though, I had a burning desire to share a few thoughts that have been brewing over the last few months, that I’m hoping might relate to someone out there reading this.
As a first-year teacher there is SO MUCH to learn! While university classes, field experiences and internship certainly prepare you for a lot of things you’ll encounter, it’s not till you’re totally on your own that you really see how much all of those experiences leave you still wondering what the heck you’re doing! It’s a steep learning curve, especially in the assignment I have this year as a specialist teacher, working with over 450 students, and travelling to up to 7 classrooms each day.
While I feel like I am finally getting a handle on how to plan, assess, and manage students in the classes I teach, it’s the things “outside” of the classroom that have been the most difficult to navigate. It’s not the daily emails and communication between colleagues and administration or the work of building relationships with colleagues that’s difficult (though there are challenge there); it’s staying out of the drama, the negativity, and the mediocrity that is a challenge. It takes a lot of effort to avoid succumbing to the day to day ho-hum that I see so many teachers living in.
Those who know me know that I don’t do mediocre. I don’t even do good. I am for great! While sure, I realize that not every lesson with every class, every day can be great, it is always my goal. Does this mean amazing, cool, over-the-top lessons? Of course not, but it does mean that I greet every class with a smile and aim to build upon our relationships and our learning. It means that I plan my lessons well before arriving at school each day, putting time and thought into the progressions that my students will need to make, and evaluating and reflecting at the end of each day to fine-tune my plans for the next class. I take pride in the things I create for my students, trying not to just pull something off the internet and take it at face value. Sure, there are many things out there that can help teachers save time, and there are many quality resources available on TpT, but everything needs to be evaluated, and tweaked to make sure that it can be incorporated with your style of teaching, and with the style of the class you’re intending to use it with.
I feel like far too often I see things on Facebook where teachers are asking other teachers for their pre-made units or lessons, and I have to wonder how many people just take those units as they are and how many take the time to read through, augment and adjust for them. I also find it really discouraging that so many also just suggest a website or a textbook to use. Textbooks, websites, and pre-made worksheets, lessons and units, in my opinion at least, just don’t make for effective lessons. Students that I teach constantly tell me how much they appreciate that I don’t do worksheets and mundane activities, and as a result, students really seem to value the time I get to spend with their class, and are able to demonstrate tremendous growth in their learning.
The other thing that I have learned to stay out of is the gossip, rumours, and drudgery that tend to infiltrate many facets of teaching. Comments like, “We made it through another day”, “Only one more hour to go”, and “Ugh, is it the weekend yet” are heard everywhere, and maybe it’s just me, but they bug me. Perhaps it’s my new teacher naivety, but I very rarely think things like this. I find that if you get those types of thoughts in your head, then lessons become dull, students can tell you’re not really into it, and then things tend to fall apart. Positivity is key! So many teachers (and people who aren’t teachers too) are just so negative, and I feel that our society is so trained to be negative and to point out flaws and carry on with gossip and rumours that it’s easy to fall into this trap, but just recognizing it and being aware of it can help you stay you, and stay positive!
I really could go on about this, but I feel like I’ll end up either going in circles or saying too much (and thus boring anyone who is actually reading this), so I’ll stop here, but I’ll leave a couple videos that can provide a few more tips and ideas! Megan, from TooCoolforMiddleSchool is a teacher who’s vlogs I really enjoy did a team-up with Latanya from SmartieStyle, and they each made a video about staying positive when around other teachers who may tend to be more negative. Check them out!