Friday, December 9, 2016

First Year Findings

     My older sister is not your normal first year teacher. She began this journey eons ago but finally saw her dream job come true when she was offered the opportunity to teach 6-8 grade ELA this year. I'd mention my sister's age, but shell probably read this and hurt me. Suffice it to say she's not in her 20s, 30s or 40s. I encouraged this career path, knowing how good she'd be and how she's always longed to be a teacher. That being said, she's taught me quite a bit this year.
     The first lesson I learned from her was to simplify. She sent me her syllabus and course overview and I became discouraged just reading it. I felt like the student, overwhelmed before I even started. My advice to her was to lighten up. Make sure her students learned the essentials but weren't buried. I asked myself if I do that. Do I make sure my students are proficient before moving on to new material? Do I want my kids to know a little material/ideas/concepts well, or to know a lot of information poorly? My answers determine my actions.
      At the beginning of the school year, my sister, was fairly well stressed: new job as a teacher, new technology to learn, new curriculum to study and implement. She turned to me for help, and I did what I could. The technology part of the preparation concerned her. My advice was to take it slow and know that she'd eventually get it. Sometimes as teachers we try to do too many new things in our classroom, using technology or not, which leads to not becoming proficient in any of them. I have to remind myself of this often. Implement one or two new things well before moving on to embrace more new things.
     My sister spends her days creating lesson plans, writing rubrics, and preparing for her classes. Her students are enjoying her as a teacher and are engaged in learning. All successes I think. However, does she border on perfectionism? I see that in my own life, constantly refining things until I'm satisfied for the moment, yet I never give up. I'm constantly trying new things, which is fine, as long as that implementation isn't taking over your life. Moderation in all things.
     We recently had two snow days at school. Whereas I spent the time relaxing and baking, she admitted she would have used the time to work on school materials. Sometimes, I realized, I just need a break. A year ago I would never have thought that, but I know I'm more effective as a teacher if I have some down time.
     My sister and I are close. I enjoy having her as a colleague, sharing ideas with her, talking with her about her classes, and relating to her like few others in our family can. As I see her embark on this virgin journey into education, I am happy to learn right along with her. Her journey has helped me become a better, more focused teacher, reminding me of tenets I took for granted in the past. And that? That has made all the difference.

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