Starting grad classes for the third summer in a row can only mean one thing to me – end of the school year! With grades under my belt and a new set of technology classes to feed my love of learning and technology in the classroom, I’m raring to go!
As my fifth year of teaching high school English comes to a close, I feel rather reflective on my progress thus far. I have reached a point in time with my teaching where I no longer feel as much like a “new teacher” as I did for the years prior. I’m seeing younger teachers coming in, their first years, and they’re coming to me for advice. Had you asked me at the start of the year if I could offer any, I probably would have said “no,” but after a year of offering advice to other teachers, new and seasoned, I found I have more to say than I realized. And to make matters even better, some of the advice isn’t half bad, even going so far as to being based on experience! *GASP!* Who would have thought?
I think what made me realize this idea of having “experience” was filling out the applications for my Level II certifications. I finally had the necessary requirements completed in order to qualify as the next level kind of teacher. So clearly, I must have something to share. And it turns out, I do.
Looking over the last five years, I’ve found a few things that worked and a few that didn’t. I would say, happily, that I’m finding my way in terms of classroom discipline, something I’m stunned we didn’t cover more of in my teacher education classes. It seems to have the largest impact on the success of my students – how well I can manage a classroom. I’m finding a balance between being firm and being my usual warm and supportive self. Too nice, and I get walked all over. Too harsh, and students don’t learn and don’t share. There’s a middle ground here, and after this year, I feel more sure than ever that I’m closer to finding it.
More than anything I think my favorite part of the last five years has been learning to see reading and writing through the eyes of someone without a masters degree and often someone who isn’t great at it, “naturally.” I have loved to read and write and think and talk since I could. The moment I could learn and communicate, it’s all I wanted to do. But for many children, that’s just not the case. We tend to teach the way we experienced learning and for learners like us, the way we learned, but the best part about the last five years has been learning how to see reading and writing through the eyes of a child who isn’t a natural.
I feel more confident in teaching writing, breaking down what I put on the page, how I construct my sentences and the grammar and punctuation choices I make. I have made hand outs, mini-lessons, activities, practices, and a process of writing to help students in this learning. In the coming years, I would like to do the same kind of thing with reading – how can I help students become critical readers without losing their love of reading? How can I find a balance between reading for pleasure and improving their reading lexiles? As I move to a co-taught class for next year, I look forward to that next challenge.
With this blog, I hope to create a space for students to share their observations and thoughts about what they’re reading, their reading process, and their writing for comments and community-building next year. Co-taught, at the high school level, has be a feeding ground for bullying and insecurities. By starting the year with pleasurable but just challenging enough activities, where students share their learning and progress with one another, I’m hoping we can work to start on the same level and create a community of learners who are supportive of one another instead of critical.
Fingers crossed for the upcoming year and for a productive summer of preparation!