I’m six weeks into my ninth year of teaching. Part of me misses the sense of it all being fresh and new. One of the things I like about teaching, though, is that there’s always a sense of newness and possibility at the beginning of a new year, even if it’s not quite as strong as it was on day one of my teaching career. A few reflections on what has and hasn’t changed since the first day I stood in front of a classroom.
I give more timely and useful feedback
I’ve now seen thousands of pieces of student writing and other work, so it’s gotten easier to see patterns and to point out ways for students to improve. Because the prep is a little less overwhelming now, I’ve also been able to shift some of that time to feedback on student drafts. That energy is wisely invested because it almost always means the students’ final drafts are better quality.
I love being in other teachers’ classrooms
I’m convinced that one of the best ways to earn about teaching is to watch others teach. Teaching is a craft and watching skilled craftspeople offers the opportunity to observe the moves they are making, sometimes unconsciously as they work. As a beginning teacher, I would often go and sit in the classrooms of the teachers that I admired as I struggled to figure out how to make work in my classroom run more smoothly and be more engaging. One of the reasons I so enjoy being a department chair now is that part of my position involves observing others teach and offering feedback.
I have (to make) more time for things outside of school
In the last 18 months I’ve gotten married and adopted a puppy, so some of that shift in time has come just as a result of not coming home to an empty house. But I’ve also gotten better at using my planning periods more effectively, since I know that I have other responsibilities (and possibilities for enjoyment!) at home. What this means is that in addition to creating more space for others in my life, I’ve also created more space for things that I enjoy, like reading.
Getting up in the morning hasn’t gotten easier
I am not a morning person. It doesn’t matter how early I get to sleep; I always struggle before about 9am. Unfortunately, that’s a full three hours after I have to be up for school. I wish schools were more willing to fight the cultural forces (athletic schedules and parent work schedules seem to be the biggest ones for us) that result in early morning starts. I believe it would be better for kids, and certainly better for me, if we started later. In the meantime, I’ll drink tea in the morning and nap in the afternoon.
I’m on the lookout for the next thing
At a recent leadership retreat, we were asked to explore an accomplishment in our career that had been a moment of pride for us and to consider what had led us to that point. For me, the creation of our school’s first blended learning course was that accomplishment. I taught the course for four years, but haven’t taught it for the last two and miss the challenge that it brought. That’s not to say that I’m without challenge or things that I find exciting, but I do feel that I’m on the lookout for new opportunities, either at my present school or beyond. I like being involved in big ideas and, perhaps even more so, working to make them realities. One of the things for which I’m very grateful at my present school is that we are so supportive of risk-taking. There are certainly some interesting opportunities coming down the pike as we begin the implementation of our most recent Strategic Plan.