This school year has been challenging. Our school began to transition to Common Core standards last year, but this was the year we were required to transition. Learning in my classroom looked very different this year than it did last year. I don’t know if this is because of the shift to the new standards or because I’m growing as a teacher. I came into education just as the transition was about to happen, so it’s probably a combination of both.
I gave much less paper work in class. Most of my lessons were interactive and used manipulatives and journaling. There wasn’t a lot of completed worksheets that went home. This was both freeing and uncomfortable for me. I feel like students enjoy learning and relate to information in activity based lessons. But I also feel like parents expect to see lots of “stuff” coming home. Pencil + Paper = Progress… right?
As I reflect on my year, it’s a challenge for me to measure my successes when my failures are so obvious to me.
I failed a lot. I can’t wait to start again in August with all the changes I want to make.
I grew a lot. I found that structuring multiple grade teaching primarily in small groups was like running a circus! I used to feel like a successful classroom manager when my students were quiet. Now I’ve surrendered to the fact that they’re learning more when they’re creating “learning” noise. My room can be a little noisy, but controlled. Mobile, but focused.
I cried a lot. When chasing down resources for students with unique needs, I’m discouraged when it seems that I’ve come up empty handed time and time again. I know there must be something – some strategy, some resource – that will help specific students succeed. I continue to add tools to my toolbox, and hope that one of those tools will fit my situation on any given day. I cry when I feel I have let my students down.
I smiled a lot. I always smile. It’s not hard to do most of the time because I love what I do. I smile when I’m happy and when I’m frustrated. My students know that I love them unconditionally. There is nothing they can do or not do to change that. They get sunshine from me everyday.
I faked a smile sometimes. I heard my mom give a sarcastic piece of advice once, “Grit your teeth and everyone will think you’re smiling.” While she was just being funny, I think about this and apply it to myself. Emotions shouldn’t direct how I treat others or how I respond to a situation. I smile through it and feel proud of myself for maintaining poise.
I laughed everyday. With cute kids and great coworkers, there is always humor in my day. Somedays laughing at my mistakes was the best part. If I’m not able to laugh, I know I need to take a break and get some perspective.
I stressed a lot. This year felt like a year and a half. I stress over my students’ progress academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. I stress over my own progress! I feel the two are tied together. I dream about solving student issues. I talk about my job. I read about my job. I write about my job. Then I hit a wall and take a weekend off. Taking a Sabbath from work is part of my plan to minimize end of the school year stress.
I stayed too long. I’m hoping this is just a “new” teacher thing. I’m three years into this gig. Part of it is that I’m not only a teacher at the school, but also a parent. I frequently stay for 12 hours a day at the school. When we have fundraisers, dances, or parent events I’ve stayed 15 hours – sometimes on a school night. I can’t NOT stay sometimes. It’s required. I’m getting better about not staying so long when I don’t have to though.
I succeeded. I’ve yet to see a standardized test that can accurately measure what I feel are some of the most important indicators of success: community involvement, morale, perseverance, respect, kindness, responsibility, and initiative.
I’ve succeeded in boosting morale where hope was waning.
I’ve communicated to my students that being the smartest or the best at something doesn’t ensure success, but perseverance will make them successful.
I’ve related to my struggling students and shown them that they can do whatever they set their minds to if they take initiative and responsibility for their growth.
I’ve built a community of students who care for each other and help each other.
I’ve facilitated connections between my students and positive role models within the greater community.
While I feel the ache of failure in some areas, I’m proud of my growth and success in others. I guess this is the life of a teacher. I don’t have it all dialed in. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still a student just like my “school babies”.