More Stuff To Do Than Just Teach
I’ll admit it. Teaching is a challenging job. Challenge is not a bad thing.
Because of this, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to be a teacher, how to teach and how to do everything else that comes with it.
Here are some of the big challenges that I am working on mastering:
Staying Above Water: My assigned teaching mentor (how happy I am to have one!) and other experts who willingly share with me have told me that for first-year teachers, your job is to just keep you nostrils above water. To do that, all you have to do is to stay one lesson ahead of your class. Survive your first year and things are moving in the right direction.
Your Ideal Classroom is not Real: I would love it if every one of my students were engaged and interested all the time. However, what I want, and what is, are two very different things.
I have (I had) a vision for my class that students were interested, and eager to learn and would be involved in discussions.
Of course that was from someone who is about 4 times the age of the people in the classroom and will never completely be immersed or understand in the society students live in and the pressures they face.
My students don’t get sleep, they are bored, they have bad days, they have a miserable home life or they just plain don’t care. Short of resorting to out-and-out bribery or being a top-level entertainer, I am coming to believe that this reality instead of my vision is the way it’s always going to be.
This fact is in no way going to cause me to put less effort into what I am doing nor does it cause me to enjoy teaching less but realizing this is the reality helps me deal with these challenges.
“Sometimes”, as my mentor said “you just have to let stuff go” – especially if you are dealing with an issue involving one student during class and dealing with the issue will disrupt the other 19 students who, for that moment in time are interesting and anxious to learn. I run into this situation all the time and have to make an on-the-spot decision to stop teaching and address the disruption or continue on with what I am doing.
It comes down to this. Am I providing an outstanding and productive learning environment for those students who are there to learn and, for those who may not be an ideal student due to outside circumstances, is there something I can do to encourage and lift them to a point where they can be?
You are Going to Spend a Lot of Time Not Teaching: An educational institution is a huge lumbering beast.
There are policies to learn, acronyms to figure out, and administrative tasks to take care of — not to mention training designed to help you perfect your craft (we call it professional development). There are handbooks, procedures and things like lockdown drills to deal with.
Cultivating some sort of relationship with every student is also critical to your responsibilities as a teacher and to a healthy classroom.
All of this is in addition to things that are directly related to teaching (like preparation, presentation and evaluation).
It’s just a fact. There is no escaping it and it all requires time.
My vice principal unknowingly dropped a precious bit of wisdom on me the other day when he said “There’s no such thing as overtime in this business!”
Better truth was never spoken. There is always some non-teaching task to do so buckle down and expect it.
The Clock Rules: As a teacher, a huge amount of your life is driven by a schedule — and it’s not always an easy one.
For me, an easy schedule is one that I can understand. One where things change on the hour or half hour (people who developed calendaring programs know this because usually give you a default option of starting and ending at :00 or :30). Schedules that are also somewhat regular and repeating without exceptions are also something I can relate to.
Nope … not even close. As a teacher, time like 10:08 and 1:16 become important and lunch is not at noon (like the rest of the world) but at 10:20 (who eats lunch at 10:20 and why don’t they refer to it as “mid morning break?”) I have to leave the house every morning at 6:15am to get to school and I can’t even think of being one or two minutes late for my first class. Don’t. Be. Late. Always remember that!
Oh yea, you have to know if it is a Red Day or White Day because that makes a difference in my schedule which is further complicated if it is Early Release Wednesday. Arrrrrgh!
Looking Ahead: I am spending a lot of time evaluating the learning environment I was left and planning what I want it to be. This includes everything from how to arrange the tables and chairs in my classroom, to what materials are needed, to curating the collection of information that I am going to present.
It’s a slow process that requires experience with the curriculum, knowing what resources you have available to you and experience with the culture and capabilities of your student population.
And I thought that I was just going to teach. Ha!!!