Last year I went to DisneyWorld. I could not believe the long lines for rides. While some of the lines were definitely not worth the wait (Haunted Mansion I’m looking at you), other rides (Splash Mountain) were definitely worth the wait. This wild ride of teaching has been more than worth the wait and has exceeded my lofty expectations.
When I first started teaching, I felt like I wanted to make everything definitive. I think this was a mind hack on my part to convince myself I was doing the right thing.
For instance, I would make these definitive statements like, “Group work is the only way to go.” “Technology in the classroom is vital.” “He must do these 100 sentences to learn his lesson.” It is quite comical looking back on it. It is also quite sad, because what did I know at that young age? I was trying to fit every one of my students, every one of my lessons, and, yes, every one of my decisions in this nice, little black and white box.
We all know life doesn’t work that way, and a student and their background is so much more complex.
Now if this was just a me problem, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, I see this same mistake being repeated over and over again in education today. Social media is not helping out. In the rush to put out a great sound bite in a tweet, facebook post, or blog entry we often box our opinions into a corner as the only definitive approach to education.
We see this often with the latest and greatest “flavor of the day” in the education world. Definitive statements begin to flow. “Maker spaces are the only way for students to feel empowered.” “There is no better way to learn than in a PLC!” “Identifying a fixed mindset is a game changer.”
I’m pretty sure I can see the collective eye roll of all of my readers.
In our race to a definitive statement, we minimize the actual importance of the given topic we are reflecting on.
Ultimately, I came to the realization that my confidence was the thing that needed the most boosting without the use of a definitive statement.
Thankfully, I can now definitely say, there is always room to grow. That is the funny thing about growth. For when we grow, so does our confidence.
It’s May! How did that happen 🙂 It often surprises me how quick the end of the school year comes up as we prepare for the last month of school and into summer.
Often, the month of May is the most challenging month of the school year. Typically, this has nothing to do with the material covered. It is more to do with the temptations that come along with the last month of the school year. The temptation, as a student, to slack off, to rush through assignments, or to simply give up.
These challenges remind me of the following quote…
“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”
There have been many triumphs through the course of this school year. I see triumphs in individual students with their progress through material, relationships, and responsibility. I see triumphs in how supportive many parents are of the education that Lord of Life offers. I see triumphs in our teaching staff who works tirelessly every night in preparing for classes. I see triumphs through the smiles on the faces of our students as they hear about their Savior, and what he has done for them.
I often tell my teachers that it is never too late in the school year to change something. While there are a few major items, like curriculum, that deserve our full attention during the summer months, most aspects of classroom instruction can be changed at any time throughout the school year.
If something is not working, why would we continue with mediocrity just because there are a only a few months of school left? That makes no sense. Teachers should continually be striving for the best, even with limited time remaining.
So how do we continue reaching for the sky in our classrooms and attain the most out of the few time we have left remaining with our students?
Make sure we are setting and sharing learning goals
Are we giving our students goals for the instruction that they are being taught? What is the point of this test? What is the plan for this project? How are we going to get to this end result? It is important that we stay on task. Are we holding ourselves and our students to task by articulating our learning goals for each new unit?
I don’t mean drill and kill worksheets. With so many months of school in the preverbal bag, we must ensure that we are continually changing up our assessment strategies. Yes, at many levels tests are crucial to reinforce study skills, habits, and memorization skills. However, are we also offering other varied avenues for assessment? Skits, class videos, music videos, clay sculptures, real life math projects, group presentations, are all types of assessments that we can use to invigorate our classroom. The list is endless, our creativity and drive are the only barriers.
Have you lost your passion in these winter months? If students see teachers who are going through the motions, won’t they emulate the same? How are you keeping your lessons engaging? This is the time of year to put in that extra effort to make sure your lessons remain interesting and mentally challenging for your students. If they see that passion and enthusiasm in your presentation, that same attitude is all the more likely to transpose into their work.
Win their hearts, gain their minds. I can’t write about achievement in the classroom without concluding with relationships. Teaching, our calling, is all about relationships. When students know we care, they care. It is all the more important, as the school year closes, to make sure we are building those relationships with our students. This is crucial with students whom are struggling. This is the time of year in which they prefer to just throw in the towel. That is if they know their teacher doesn’t care. Students who struggle, strive for that relationship. While many teachers may see that student as a student who doesn’t care or is lazy, the teacher who cares sees that student as another soul. We never give up on a soul. We never give up on a student. Build those relationships, show your students that you care not only about teaching but about them.
So have you set that bar high? Are you reaching for the sky? If not, there is time to change. Don’t wait. Make that change, in your classroom, in yourself, and in your heart, now.
“If everything was perfect, we would already be in heaven.”
A new school year brings anticipation, excitement, and renewal. For many teachers, the first day of school is one of their favorite days of the entire year. When the first day adrenaline begins to wear, the real school year kicks in. The year often brings various highs and lows but generally it follows a fairly consistent pattern.
That pattern is displayed in the above graph. While a generalization, and therefore not perfect, much research has been developed by the New Teacher Center for this chart. Furthermore, while the graph is intended for the use of new teachers, it can also be used as a characterization throughout all levels of teaching experience.
Therefore, it is important for all teachers to be familiar with the pattern, to better prepare themselves for the year ahead.
One major area that jumps out at many educators who see this graph for the first time is the drastic dip that takes place in the fall and winter months. I think this could be even more indicative in our WELS setting as we prepare for the rigors of the Christmas service.
Now we don’t circulate this graph to cause depression, quite the opposite. If an educator understands that certain times of the year may be more challenging than others, they can better prepare themselves for the potential hurdles that lay ahead.
I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to assume this same pattern could apply to our students and their parents as well. Through years of experience, I have often found issues coming up in the months of January and February. Maybe some of you can attest to the same thing.
So the big question, how can we better prepare ourselves? After gathering feedback from other educators, I have a few, simple ideas to help keep you on track through the highs and lows of the school year.
Stay strong in His Word
Educator after educator stated this was the most important, I have to agree. Ultimately, He will always be there for us. He will never give us more than we can handle. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, He has called us to the unique settings and situations in which we serve. Mr. Jerome Wolff stated that during he worst times of the year he would find himself writing his own devotions. What a wonderful idea to keep our feet firmly planted in the reassuring message of the Gospel.
Stay Healthy/Make Time for Yourself
Several educators stated that staying healthy was near the top of their list. Getting a good amount of sleep, eating well, and exercise are all part of living a healthy lifestyle.
Perhaps the bigger idea is to make sure you allow time for yourself. Educators can get so bogged down in the day to day rigors of school. Mrs. Rachel Pierson commented that it is vital to carve out a hobby outside of school. This hobby can be anything. We must always remember that we also need time to ourselves. I realize this is much easier said than done. However, big picture is the healthier we are, the healthier our class will be.
My Corny Bad Day File
In my file cabinet in the office, I literally have a “Bad Day File.” This file is there for my worst of days when I knew I blew it, or things just did not go as planned. What is this file filled with? Notes from past students, cards from family and friends, a bible verse, etc. While corny, sometimes it is great just being able to pull that out and look through those reminders when everything else seems to be going the wrong direction.
Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind
Mrs. Brittany Trimmer added that it is important to keep in mind why we do what we do. At the end of the day, we have the incredible opportunity to share God’s Word with the children that He placed before us. Wow. Does it get any better than that?
Ms. Jodi Gilbert also reminded of that bigger picture with a bible passage, Isaiah 40:31. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Mrs. Brenda Wagenknecht did a perfect job of summing up the Teacher Chart of Doom. Brenda commented, “I think just having the chart would have been nice when I first started teaching. Knowing and going through a schedule and routine gives its own kind of comfort and security. It is like seasons . . . there are positives and negative aspects of every season and it helps to think about the approaching season and what you are looking forward to.”
I would like to thank all the folks who helped out with this article by sharing their thoughts…your support is appreciated!
Many of you may already be familiar with the above chart. After thorough research, the chart displays the general phases of emotion throughout the school year. While a generalization, it strikes a cord with many teachers.
I am considering doing a future blog post on this chart, but I need your feedback to help with my research.
How do you overcome the tough times displayed in this chart? Obviously, there are many difficult times we, as teachers, face throughout each school year. Furthermore, while every school year is most certainly different, many educators can attest to the ups and down that we experience throughout the course of an average year. On a side note, perhaps a topic for another time, is there even such a thing as, “an average year?”
Please leave your feedback via a comment on what gets you through the down times of teaching. We can be a resource for one another, so as we prepare for another school year we can be prepared as possible.
As WELS educators, our greatest benefit is staying connected and strong in His Word. Do you have ideas to help keep our focus on the Word throughout the year?
Please include thoughts on staying strong in Him and/or other ideas that help your through those tough months.