Blogging Initiative Post: Week 2
Sitting in evening classes learning how to teach wasn’t the best environment for learning how to teach. Looking back at my “teacher school” some five years later, it’s obvious that my coursework wasn’t ideal. But apart from having all teacher preparation in a real classroom, I’m not sure how much it can be improved. Years in the classroom seems to be the only real way to prepare for being a teacher. It’s kinda like how the only way to get better at reading is simply to read.
But it’s more than that I suppose. A teacher also needs to learn how to try new things, grow professionally, and challenge him or herself in order to gain that experience. I know
some a lot of teachers who have been teaching for years but have not challenged themselves to become better at their craft. They don’t have 20 years of teaching experience, growth, and improvement. They have one year of experience 20 times.
I wish I had learned many things in my teacher preparation:
- How to manage large classrooms – No vainglorious professor who ever showed me how to prepare for teaching a lab science to 40 students at a time. They always made it look so easy and sugar-coated.
- The value of relationships with students – I knew that load of BS about not smiling until Thanksgiving was just a cliche, but I why do I see plenty of new teachers coming into the profession with that “strategy” and then wonder why “the kids are still talking during my lecture?” Who’s out there teaching that farce!
- The value of time set aside for reflection – A Hemingway-esque style of journaling does wonders when dealing with the next thing I wished I had learned.
- How to handle stress and manage school with home life – If you’re teaching for the right reasons, you probably take your struggles, worries, and lesson ideas home with you. They’re at your dinner table, they watch movies with you, they sleep on your pillow, and drink coffee with you in the morning before taking them back to school riding shotgun in your car. If you care, that’s going to be hard to avoid. But how do you keep it from becoming an all-encompassing force in your life?
But I mostly wished I had learned how to grow professionally and continue to challenge myself. It was easy my first couple years because I was teaching at a small school with an active group of professionals and administrators who continually walked the halls and classrooms making it known that our building was a place for a growth mindset. Support was everywhere. But then I moved to a giant school that lacked any community feel or support. It’s one of those places where you’re laughed at because you take your job seriously. I hope you don’t believe what I’m writing because that means you’re probably pretty happy with where you teach. But some of you are probably thinking “that’s me too.”
And that’s unfortunate.
So, how do you continue to grow without that avuncular mentor or principal at your school to prod you along? Or how do you do it when you want to hide your attempts at being a professional because you’re sick of the looks you get from down the hall from the jaded ones? It took me a few years, but I’ve finally found it elsewhere. It’s found by:
But I eventually ran in to a problem, one that I touched on a little bit last week and can be found in “The Point” section on my home page: I realized that I was beginning to collect a pile of underpants
I collected, piled, filed, refiled, bookmarked, and shared hundreds of blog posts, tweets, ideas, tips, apps, lessons, and labs for months. Finally, I realized that I had created nothing new. I have been entering the classroom with too many ideas, starts of new projects, beginnings of new methods, attempts of new tools…none fully implemented or taken to completion. I learned and learned and learned, but I did not do.
This year for me is about the do. How do I know flipping the classroom will work or fail until I create a plan and actually try it? Then try it again? How do I know the student reflections will teach students about their potential growth mindsets if I only do it for a couple weeks? It’s like knowing about and forming and opinion on some strange food, like head cheese or fried okra, without actually trying it…multiple times just to make sure.
This year for me is about that. I will pare down my pile of underwear to a realistic load and try each one (I hope you’re still with my analogy, otherwise this might be getting weird). New teachers need to know that they cannot try everything at once. They need to know that they should learn, plan, attempt, and complete just a few methods until they know from actual experience that they either don’t work for them, or they (or the students) become really good at them and see benefit. Then, with experience and success under their belts, new teachers can begin adding or changing things to promote even better teaching and learning.
In 20 years I hope to look back on continued change and improvement, not 20 copies of my first year. And not a pile of underpants.