It has been a long time since I’ve posted on my own blog because lately, I have gone into survival mode–just getting grades done and hanging on to my sanity leading up to the holiday break. The fall semester was filled with triumphs and successes for my students and me, but I also must admit that in the end, I was pretty disappointed by what things had degenerated into. Even my students wondered (aloud) if I was having trouble in my personal life, as my jovial, chatty demeanor quickly deteriorated into a frazzled abruptness as the end of the semester approached. My personal life was fine, it was my job that was stealing my joy! By my last day, I found myself questioning whether I should just switch careers, since my patience had clearly run out. I even scheduled an interview for a consulting gig that would possibly include a company car in which I could drive far, far away from grades, obnoxious kids, demanding administrators and all of the things that made being a teacher so. damn. hard.
Today, after enjoying some much needed quality time with family and friends, I can now say what I’ve always known–I was born to be in the classroom. I love kids, especially the ones who get on your last nerve. I love seeing the look on a kid’s face when they finally understand something that they once thought was impossible to learn. I enjoy decorating bulletin boards, marching in graduation ceremonies and all the other fun things that come with being a teacher. Although I hate grading papers and always feel perpetually behind on grades, kids need timely feedback. I detest “writing up” my students for poor behavior, but without rules, even the most ‘engaging’ classes can descend into chaos. As I always tell my students when they come to me with excuses, I’ve learned that the only person you can change is YOU. So, my first resolution for the new year is to be a new teacher. I am a pretty laid-back person who loves to have fun, but I have found that many of my students, 11th and 12th graders on the brink of adulthood, see this as a weakness to be exploited. Despite my best efforts, they start to see me as “one of them”, and although this rapport often works in my favor, it is also the source of a lot of frustration for me. This is not the first year I have struggled with this. I also know that I am not the only teacher who struggles with this.
I always worry about my students not having the work ethic to be successful after high school, but I tend to be very forgiving in my grading and management. Without becoming an ogre, I want to create a more structured environment for my students in which we continue to do meaningful work, but with very high standards for student participation and commitment. I am not suggesting that I must become a paper-pushing sourpuss to be a successful teacher. I would also never want to punish a student who may miss the mark, but is willing to go back and correct his or her mistakes. After seven years of teaching, I just want to be a little less “loosey-goosey” in my approach. My issue seems to be that I am always coming up with new ideas and strategies to try, not allowing myself the time and space to follow through and be consistent with what I’ve already put in place. This year, my goal is to find a balance between being my fun-loving self and the organized, focused professional that my students need me to be. I know that great lessons and engaging work are the foundation of good classroom management, so I will start there as I always have. I will continue to have a good time in the classroom, laugh at my own jokes, and plan exciting tech-rich and hands-on projects for each unit. I will also work harder to keep up with grades and lesson plans, be more consistent with feedback, positive and negative, and focus on doing a few great things, resisting the temptation to try a million ideas at once.
How will your classroom look in the coming year?