Thursday, June 23, 2011

What I Learned This Year

HomeroomMy homeroom students on the last day of school.

Here we go again...3 years later and we're still going strong. There were a lot of new and exciting changes for me this year that I have not experienced in the past. This was my first year to teach at the same school for more than one year, it was my first experience as a head coach, first experience coaching cross country, and it was also my first experience as a computer applications teacher. With this many changes in my professional career there was plenty of valuable experiences that I have learned from this year which makes this end of the year reflection that much more easy. Let's do this, here is my reflective post for year three.

Know Who Your Boss Is

As a teacher I find myself doing quite a bit of people pleasing on a daily basis...however, the major issue with this is that it becomes very easy to get wrapped up in what people think of you. If you are not careful you can become completely consume with trying to please some many individuals that sometimes your own students get left out of the picture. It is very important that remember the reason that we got in the business in the first place, the kids.
Our decision making process should always be student centered and not centered around pleasing adults.
Students always need to be our primary focus and we should really consider how are we serving those students...rather than how are we serving our administration. Furthermore, it is very important to keep in mind that whatever may be going on in your professional or personal life that your students deserve our complete attention and that we should never let the extrinsic factors affect our performance for our students.

Don't Expect Others to be as Excited About Change as You Are

I've mentioned before in my writings that I am very much an optimist and I try to maintain a positive outlook. In the past I have never seen my optimism as being a fault, but this year I was shown that it can create barriers in the teaching profession. I'm the type of person that really enjoys professional development sessions...not because of the time off from work, but rather for the quality of the material being presented (assuming it's a quality presentation). However, this year I really started to take notice to the naysayers that exist in PD session. You know the type, the ones that sit in the back of the room and constantly check their Facebook status and often mutter under their breath "this will never work". I have never understand these people and I suppose I never will because it seems that they never give new ideas a fighting chance...and I'm quite the opposite. I'm the one who is in the opposite corner geeking the new ideas that are being presented. I guess the moral of this lesson is that you cannot allow others to stifle your own excitement and joy that you experience in teaching or any other facet of life for that matter. I feel like the teaching landscape is full of individuals that once had a fire and excitement for the profession but somewhere along the way they joined the darkside. You have to embody the aspects of teaching that you enjoy and not allow others to influence or steer you away from that.

Don't be Afraid to be an Outsider

Along the same lines of the previous topic, if you are planning on being true to yourself and not falling in line with the rest of the crowd then you cannot be afraid to be an outsider. There have seldom been moments in my teaching career where I have felt like I fit in...and to be quite honest I'm okay with that. I have never been a person that excels in social situations and I tend to focus a lot of my time and efforts at school to basically hanging out with my students and not the adults in my buildings. However, I would much rather be the person that is an outsider because of my focus on my students than someone that seeks approval from other teachers in my building.
I'm very happy with the teacher that I have become.
I play my music way too loud, I eat my lunch with students and not in the teacher's lounge, I enjoy being connected to my students through blogging and social media, and I enjoy being immature. It took me a while before I was comfortable with not fitting in with the rest of the crowd but I realized that my common core of beliefs were important to me and that I needed to be myself and not worry about the perception that others have of me.

Don't Touch The Keyboard

The one teacher that I do speak to on a daily basis is Mrs. Barron...otherwise known as my classroom mom. She is the one go to person that I have for everything and this year she shared with me some excellent advice. She explained to me that while she worked for a airline as a tech support trainer, one of the main points that they instilled in their employees was to never touch the keyboard when training an employee. The idea is that if you touch the keyboard and take over the task that they are not trying to learn than they will never learn how to do it on their own and you end up doing all the work. This is very applicable in teaching as well. Often times when we are teaching a task to a student and they are having difficulties completing the particular task, it is very easy to take over and basically do the work for them...because we can always do it better. However, the major issue with this is that if we do the work for the students then they will never fully master the skills. No matter how difficult it may be we must resist the urge to take control of the keyboard.
This means that our students will struggle a little bit in the front end but it will help them excel in the end game.

Don't Get Comfortable

The biggest fear each teacher should have is becoming comfortable. Now that I'm moving into my fourth year of teaching and my second year I'm starting to realize that things are not near as hard as they use to be...planning, grading, instructing, and all my teacherly duties have become more routine as I have gained experience.
While routines are good in the sense they allow me to be more effective, they can also be bad because they can foster apathy.
This year I have really been fearful of turning into a teacher that has become very comfortable to the point of coasting through their daily work. I began to pick up new tasks that would challenge me and prevent me from developing routines. I found myself joining committees that I would have never volunteered for in the past and picking up PD sessions that sounded somewhat interesting. The whole goal here was to not become stagnant and to keep moving my professional career in a forward motion. Teaching itself is a very comfortable job that offers security...and often times comfort and security does not create an atmosphere that highly motivated individuals. However, we cannot afford to be passive in education; we need to be willing to be "movers and shakers" and be advocates for the changes that need to happen in our schools. The teaching profession needs individuals that are passionate and willing to exceed the demands of the traditional 8-3 teaching this not an achievable goal?

Mr. McClung