Grace & Growth

As you may know, I’ve had the honor of working with an incredible student teacher this year.  And PS–she needs a job!  Message me if you have one available in central NC!  Today was my first day teaching in my classroom in several weeks, and it was weird.  Loving it, but it was strange like those first few days back to school in August, except I already knew the kids.  People asked what I did in my “time off”, and so here are some thoughts about what I (re)learned in this experience.

It’s not time off.  Granted, I wasn’t teaching, but I was coaching, encouraging, running behind the scenes stuff, and working with my ST outside of class time.  During classes I tried to help my colleagues out while keeping an eye on my classes.  I worked on National Board renewal. I researched materials for new units I want to create. I learned to use new technologies. (More to come soon!) I got to know a few of my colleagues better. I played with new ways of giving feedback to students to help them grow. I got a new job. I read about implementing IPA‘s and about Creating Innovators.  I started dreaming up new curriculum paths. I fixed the copier. Twice. I taught colleagues how to use Plickers and how to streamline some processes using Google Docs. I remembered how much I like to learn, and yet how much I still have to learn.

There is hope for our professional future.  My ST came to me sharp and smart, strong on pedagogy and long on desire to learn.  And she has improved consistently since then.  She has been a delight to work with, and she has survived putting up with me.  (Hire her please!)

My greatest takeaway: We need more grace in our lives.  I came in each day with a mental list of things I wanted to get done… and I rarely accomplished that list.  Even taking teaching for 4 1/2 hours a day off my plate, plus grading and planning, I still didn’t get it all done.  I realize that this is a sign that I need to allow myself more grace about what does and doesn’t get done during the day, especially when I’m teaching a full load. Having a ST lightened my load in some ways, but increased it in others.  And that’s ok.

Another takeaway related to grace is that that we need to extend to others.  Working with Annie reminded me of how hard teaching can be especially if you don’t have a deep toolbox.  In fact, it can be downright scary.  This fear is magnified when we talk about teaching for performance/proficiency and with basing our delivery in comprehensible input. That teacher down the hall who still teaches straight out of the text? I am choosing to believe that she is teaching the best way she knows how.  Teachers often teach in the way they were taught, and if there aren’t many people around you using different methods, it’s very, very hard to make the change.  It’s one thing to say “here are our standards, teach them” and it’s another to make it happen in a meaningful way.  If you don’t have a toolbox full of options, making that change can be overwhelming.  I spent many years trying to build a better mousetrap–coming up with tricks and tweaks to make it so students could pass a test…only to find that many still struggled to use the language meaningfully despite our efforts.  Then I found people like Laura, Kara & Megan, Kara, Sharon, Carrie, Amy, Neil, Martina, Sara Elizabeth, and Kristy (among others) who showed me a whole ‘nother way of doing this and my professional world was changed. I’m thankful for the time, materials, and patience they shared with me, and I am reminded how powerful collaboration can be across disciplines, state lines, and even pedagogies.  This is what I’m carrying with me as I begin another aventura nueva in the fall.

Just over a year ago, I decided to see how writing a blog would go.  I figured if I wrote a few posts and it didn’t go anywhere, well then it was no big deal.  In truth, I don’t usually enjoy writing–I can do it, but it’s not fun (thank you, literature classes, for killing that joy). But here I am a year later, very grateful for those who have read what I’ve posted, but especially thankful for the connections that have been made with people as a result of collaborations that have taken place here.  Thanks for reading, and here’s to another year!