As educators, one of the most important parts of the job is reflecting and adjusting our practices. What most people don’t understand is that teaching is an art, not a science. Nothing will ever be perfect about what we do in the classroom and there is always room for improvement. I want to take some time to reflect on what I accomplished over the past year as well as look ahead to next year’s challenges.
Over the past year, I think I did a much better job of finding my groove in the classroom. After the first year it was much easier to concentrate less on the lessons and more on the students. I connected more with all of my students and tried harder to get to know them as people. I think it helped that I adapted lessons to class periods and also learned a lot about what works for certain personalities versus others. Everything you learn about education in school is like trying to apply theories in a vacuum: things won’t ever work the same when you apply them to real students. I was able to hone more in on this in my second year.
Another huge improvement was going more with the flow. Again, lessons don’t always go perfectly as planned but I learned how to adjust and come up with little activities for those spare minutes in class that made a huge difference. I got more in tune with timing of activities, with pacing of curriculum, and I think by the end I had a much better grasp of getting students to the end goal. I know that this will be a huge benefit to start out with in my third year. I hope to standardize my practices even more so that students know exactly what to expect in my class.
Probably my biggest accomplishment over the past year was getting myself involved. Year one was to get my feet wet: I had to learn so much about the school, my colleagues, my practices and everything else that I had no time to get involved. This past year I joined three committees, I was an iLearn coach (led professional development), I organized a trip to Germany, led workouts with students after school and I stayed for quite a few fundraisers and after-school activities. Not only this but I had a second job this year and I still managed to have more energy and be more prepared for class! (That should you something about how rough the first year teaching is). I learned just how much of a community the school environment is and why that’s a huge part of becoming a teacher. I tried harder to involve the community in my classroom and it made a huge difference. I could tell what a difference it made in terms of teachers and students recognizing me outside of my classroom and in terms of the administration noticing my impact on the school. I felt like I belonged and had influence over what happened with the students, which was a great feeling.
This year the biggest challenge was using computers in a 1:1 environment. It was new for our district and it wasn’t without its challenges. The biggest challenge was usually just getting the internet and printers to function correctly, but we handled these issues on a daily basis. It was also tricky adapting to the Moodle (digital environment) and setting things up to help students with the material outside of class. I think I did some great things with technology and I also had a few flops, but I did learn how useful it is to have students take responsibility for their learning and not have excuses for staying more organized about class. I think it kept me more on track as a teacher and I know I’ll be even more prepared to utilize these tools next year. The one rough area was regarding classroom management. I think I was too lenient at first when students were using the computers or their cellphones in my class. I had to adjust as the year went on and I think next year I need to have more clear expectations right away. I want to utilize the tools but there is a time and place and students need to understand that. Overall, I think the technology makes everyone’s lives easier but it takes a different approach from teachers to utilize them effectively. Next year we’ll be getting Apple TV in the classroom, which should alleviate some of the technology woes and create an even more flexible teaching environment. I think that it will be a huge advantage for teachers, so I already can’t wait to experiment with it.
In terms of looking forward to next year I have many new challenges ahead. Firstly, I just switched classrooms. It was my choice to do and I know it will be a good thing, but it will be a challenge to figure out the setup and new environment. I think it will be a huge improvement to have wall space around my classroom and to be located right by the teacher’s lounge, the bathroom, and one of my favorite colleagues. I want to get students to help me arrange and decorate the space, but we will see how that goes. My goal is try new classroom environments, such as team-teaching with my colleague or simply rearranging the classroom environment for certain lessons (ideally at least once a week). I could tell this year what a difference it makes to switch things up and allow students more freedoms inside the classroom. Apple TV will make this even more a possibility, which will be a nice luxury. Granted it takes more work to get students to feel responsible for taking care of the classroom, but if I could do this I could trust them to handle the flexibility.
Second, next year my department is adopting new textbooks. We have the textbooks to look at over the summer, but it means that I never will have taught some of these things and that automatically entails difficulties. I know it will mean more time spent lesson planning and revising plans. Luckily, I have a much better handle on doing these things now with a few years experience, because experience is a virtue when teaching. I know I can handle certain challenges better, but I’m nervous that it will be more work outside of the class which is hard to handle sometimes. I think the next textbooks will be better, but I still have more to learn about implementing effective lessons and using totally new material makes that a challenge.
Lastly, next year I will be supervising the first Spanish Club at our school. I’m excited for this opportunity and again it’s great to be involved around the school, but it will be more work. I know I will have a new Pirate Connections (weekly supervisory) group so that could make Thursdays trickier next year. My goal is to get students involved in the planning and implementation of the club activities so that they’re empowered to lead. I also want to get the club involved in community service or some other activity around the school. I’m really trying to work on my leadership and planning skills, which improved a lot over this year. I just need to keep track of all of the events and get help from those around me.
Overall, I walked away from my second year of teaching feeling more empowered and like I had a gained a lot professionally. I know I belong to a career where I feel challenged, motivated, and like I make a difference on a daily basis. I know I’m learning through experience and it’s making my job easier, slowly but surely. Next year I will be even better!