My fifth year of teaching is officially in the books.
Friday was the final day with students, and we teachers returned today to prep our rooms for the summer break. Once we finished and had our checklists signed off on, we were free to go.
Being the overachiever that I am (and wanting to start my vacay early), I worked hard so I could leave as quickly as possible.
As I’ve done my previous four years, I wanted to take some time to reflect on lessons I’ve learned this year.
As I’ve said a time or two (insert sarcastic look), my year definitely had its ups and downs.
There were a LOT of changes this year…staffing, standards, and students (well, that last item is a given every year).
I do not do change well. I need time to adapt. Unfortunately, teachers are not afforded time.
We are like medical professionals, performing triage on a daily basis.
Adapting to change was one of the first lessons I had to learn.
The lesson took a while to set in.
With staffing changes came new responsibilities.
I was overwhelmed and because of that, my words were sometimes less gentle than they should have been. That can be a good and a bad thing.
I learned that sometimes being direct is the best path toward getting things done.
On the other hand, I learned that I can’t go in too harshly…I need to be sensitive to another person’s experience as well as mindset.
I need to wait for God’s words, not the words I’ve planned in my mind.
Those are lessons I can apply toward how I approach my students as well.
This year, without the constant presence of my friend, Barb, I learned that I had to speak up for myself.
In other words, I found my voice.
Oh boy, did I ever.
I used it to stand up for myself when my VAM came out.
I used my voice to raise questions, respectfully (of course) but unrelentingly, to try to get some answers.
I got answers (they didn’t make sense, except to the politicians who created them).
I also used my voice to stand up for the students I serve.
They were outraged by a new system of tests and other diagnostic measurement tools that CONSTANTLY interrupted their class time.
I spoke up for them.
Another big lesson I learned…probably the one that will save my sanity throughout the rest of my career…is how to balance work with home.
It’s one of the few positive things that came out of my erroneous VAM score.
I learned that it’s not worth taking home work stress…that I HAVE to give myself time to relax and be a non-teacher when I leave my classroom.
I limited the amount of time I worked from home, allowing myself one night a week…two max…to lesson plan.
I quit grading assignments at home and left that to my planning period, and I gave myself permission to say no to a fake, self-righteous guilty conscience that tried to berate me for not providing feedback the day after assignments were due.
My students understood. They still got their results rather quickly…just not always within twenty-four hours.
It didn’t hurt them, and it actually helped me.
With the good lessons come the bad.
Well, not really bad but an awareness of things I really need to focus on improving.
One of the biggest areas of my teaching involves classroom rapport.
I’d been marked down a little bit in that one area during my observation, and it gave me pause to think…and reflect when certain situations happened in my classroom later in the year.
I kept wondering what I’d done differently from the year before…why there was some negativity flowing between various students, thus bringing down the supportive feel of a couple of my classes.
One thing I know I didn’t do as well was incorporate as many team building activities into our routine (as I’ve done in previous years). I won’t make this mistake again.
I am looking for ways to create empathy among my students. Despite the loss of a student in one of my classes (this class actually bonded tightly…the problems were mainly in my other classes), some students still had trouble digging up sensitivity for their classmates.
I’ll be working on mini-lessons to help with this.
I think of all things I can work on, the above will probably have the greatest impact on my students and their learning.
Oh sure, I know I need to work on everything but creating a supportive classroom…one in which students are respectful and accepting of one another…is at the top of my list.
Saying goodbye to my students wasn’t as hard this year.
I loved them to bits, that’s for sure, but I was ready for a break to step away and relax so I can return in August as a teacher who is refreshed and ready to offer my best to a new group of students.
I’m well on my way, even after one afternoon on break…