Sometimes I get overwhelmed. For awhile I’ll be thinking “yeah, I’m totally rockin’ this!” or at least “okay, not bad for my first year”, but then I’ll see what someone else is doing or my students will bomb a benchmark test, and I kinda fall to pieces. “I’ve taught them NOTHING! I shouldn’t even BE a teacher!” And, of course, these meltdowns don’t do me any good because I waste so much time stressing out that I don’t have time to, you know, improve. I have my freak-out, scramble to plan for the upcoming week, and pretty much continue feeling awesome/decent/mediocre until the next realization of my own inadequacies. I think one thing that has stopped me from really upping my game has been the sense that there is so much to change, and it’s an overwhelming feat to fix everything all at once. But then last week, I finally had the realization I probably should’ve had a long time ago:
I don’t have to fix everything all at once.
Are there things I do well as a teacher? Yes. Are there things I could do better? Of course. Are there things I’m not even doing yet, even though I really should? Absolutely. My problem has been that I think, “Okay, so I need to figure out a way to work more grammar and vocab into the curriculum, AND I have to make sure I’m addressing every point on every IEP, AND I need to make tutoring more effective, AND I need to conference with students more often, AND my current homework policy isn’t working, AND AND AND…” then eventually I just think “well, there’s no time to figure all of that out now,” and I don’t figure out any of it. This time was different because I just randomly chose a few things which wouldn’t require a lot of prep work and told myself to do a better job than I’ve been doing. Here are a few things that made me proud of myself and my students last week:
Conferencing: I struggle to spend one-on-one time working with students, even in the classes that behave well enough that management doesn’t prevent it. I tend to think that if I can’t sit right there and work through every concern, it’s not enough (sensing a pattern yet?). This time, I just briefly checked in with every student as they were starting an assignment. Do you have a topic? Do you know where to find information? Do you have a plan to move forward? Good. Next student. It was really very easy, and I was able to spend more time with the kids who really needed it, without ignoring the ones who were on track. Perfect!
Tolerance: It’s so important to me to create a safe environment, but I don’t always feel like I’m effective at calling students out for saying things they shouldn’t. I think I usually come off as too harsh, so the kids think they’re “in trouble” rather than “intolerant.” I made more of an effort last week to calmly, but firmly, make my students aware that certain forms of thinking are not acceptable. Here’s a conversation from when a girl took a larger stack of books to put away than a boy:
Student: Haha, she’s manlier than you are!
Me: Really? Do you have to be a man to be strong?
Students: Uh… no.
Student: Miss, it’s okay, you’re strong!
Me: That doesn’t matter. I’m just saying, being manly doesn’t really have anything to do with how many books you carry.
Yeah, they still tend to react as if someone got burned by some clever quip I said. I would much rather they realize that I just want them to think about the words they’re using and why, but it’s a step. I do have one student who now self-corrects every time she starts to describe something as “retarded”, so I am seeing some progress!