Confessions of a First Year. Part 1.

Man, has this been a journey. With 19 school days left (28 with weekends), not that I’m counting or anything, I have been thinking back a lot over the last 7 months. With that an instagram post came to mind that I created when I had completed 1/3 of my first year (which felt like a major accomplishment at the time you guys). As I reread the “things I had learned” it quickly hit me that these “realizations” are all still applicable to where I am today, almost 3/3 done with year 1. In all honesty, I’m beginning to think they always will be.

  • You can be planned and over-plan, but there will forever be a curveball
  • No matter how many times you repeat something, it’s never enough (have highly debated recording myself and uploading it to classroom)
  • Grading, grading and more grading
  • Sleep…what’s that?
  • It’s okay to not have it all figured out

And last, but not least… I love my job and my students.

In today’s post I am going to focus in on planning; you can plan and over-plan, but never be fully planned.

One of my goals since day one of teaching has been to be planned for the next week before that current Thursday hits. While there were several weeks I faltered at this, for the most part I feel I did pretty good. However, to ensure that this was happening that meant I wasn’t doing something else…grading. I would waiver back and forth trying to put these two in order of importance, but what I learned is that when push comes to shove making sure I was planned in advance relieved my stress more then having a clear classroom folder with everything graded.

But planning. We spend hours and hours trying to put together the perfect lesson plan filled with differentiation, engagement strategies and formative assessments all to be interrupted by the unplanned emergency drill, the pop up school assembly, lack of attendance and students being pulled out. This can become insanely discouraging. It can make you feel like just throwing something together because who’s to know what the day may bring. Why spend hours on something that you can’t see flourish?

Because our students deserve it. Even if we have an attendance rate of 12 out of 30. Those 12 deserve a great class. Even if classes become shortened or some are cancelled, the time and the ones that we have deserve a great class.

I am someone who continually over prepares and typically likes to always have a plan. One thing teaching has taught me, as well as my masters program, is that ambiguity is okay. I have actually come to embrace ambiguity, which I would have never thought would happen! (Fun fact…I’m slightly OCD…) I have also learned that sometimes the lessons that you throw together in the morning, because you get that email or calendar reminder of a scheduling change, turn out to be the best lessons yet. Lastly, I have come to realize that it is okay to push your lessons back. If you have one that you are very excited for, but the day just isn’t conducive, delay it! No one knows if you went a little out of order. Okay, well depending on your school planning requirements maybe someone does know, but you get what I mean!

Now while all I just aforementioned have to do with outside factors, what about the factors that affect your lessons inside the classroom? Such as; longer than anticipated discussions, question and more questions, activities running at a slower pace, backtracking and review. At first I would become very anxious when a lesson was running “off time.” I found myself rushing (positive) discussions, telling students to come ask me later, hindering group collaboration by pushing to the next step before the last was complete. Then one day my lecturer for my masters said something that struck a cord…

Comprehension Over Content

There is so much we have to get through in a trimester/semester or year and it can become easy to feel pressured to rush through it to “stay on track.” But what does staying on track for content do for the student if they are not in a state of comprehension? After one of my first observations and my feedback saying to slow down my lectures I decided to let comprehension be my timer, not the one I set on the projector. With that being said I still set my timer, but became much more conscious of checking in with my students and adjusting time (plus the rest of my lesson) accordingly and on the fly.

So, what I’m getting at is this… Plan that lesson. Make it great. Put your heart into it. Allow yourself to become discouraged when that curveball comes your way because after all, we are human, but don’t stay down. Push that lesson back. Let them take longer than you thought. And know you’re doing all you can, with what you have, where you are.

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