I have already finished two weeks of my third year as a teacher and I must say it’s amazing what a difference I have already noticed. This year I feel much more in control and much more at ease in front of the students. We have more changes this year (as with every year) that make it new and just as challenging: new textbooks, new policies, new technology and I even have a new classroom. Yet despite these things I still feel like I can put together better lessons, engage with students better, and like I have more time to just breathe in class and go with the flow. I used to have to concentrate so hard on what I was teaching that I had no idea whether the students were learning nor did I really get to know the students personally. It was tough to keep up with lesson planning for just two classes and I didn’t have time to try out new ideas or I was just too nervous that it would disrupt my plan and I wouldn’t know what to do.
Now, in the third year, I feel like a completely different teacher. Not only can I prepare for three classes, I continue to try out new technology, teaching strategies, and classroom policies. I have improved on a lot of simple things and I can tell that the students are getting more out of the class time that we have together. I don’t stress about what I’m teaching and I have much more energy to sustain me through the day. I catch on to the little hints that students give when they need help and I know how to take action to solve the myriad of problems that arise in school every day. For example, this year I have a student with a severe visual impairment. I knew that I needed to get her some headphones because she didn’t have any so I found some in the school and delivered them to her in another class. This is something I would have overlooked my first year. Another example is when two boys got into a conflict (already in the second week) I knew how to handle them calmly and without disrupting anyone else’s work. I took them outside, talked to each of them, and all while my principal was watching! In fact, he emailed me later that I did a “nice job” which was exciting. I know in my first year this situation would have been disastrous and stress-inducing.
Another huge sign of success for me is just how well I can anticipate and set up activities now. For example, I set up the Moodle (our class website) to be organized and user friendly. I spent class time showing students how to use the websites, whereas in the past I just assumed they’d figure it out. I also spent class time showing them the resources and talking about the difference between using a translator and using a dictionary and with amazing results! I used to say “don’t translate!” but I failed to realize that the students didn’t know what to do instead. Now, I don’t assume anything. I know what questions they will have and I anticipate the misunderstandings so that I can save myself the time of explaining it later on in the year. I get them to help each other figure things out and I don’t have to stress about it. I now have the skills to create useful homework assignments and then get students to take responsibility for when they’re absent and catch themselves up. I even make sure students know how to contact me if they have questions or need help and I show them the technology they can use to study outside of class. I know these things seem obvious but it’s so hard to know how to effectively instruct students how to do them. I know I’m doing a much better job this year and the time I’ve taken now will save me a lot of headache later this year
I had heard from teachers that things click in the third year but of course in my first and second year I didn’t believe them. I thought it was hard in the first but that I would be good in the second and yet I look back already after two weeks this year and think that I was awful the past two. I finally think I’m teaching and I finally have the confidence to do everything I need to on a daily basis. The biggest difference is that I can give up control to the students and I can let them dictate the learning. I design lessons so that I spend less time “teaching” and more time facilitating what the students are doing. This is how I can tell I have learned a lot from the past two years. I’m much more excited for my job every day because I know I can do it and that I’m not going to be lost in the lesson or get criticisms from students because I didn’t make any activity “fun.” I can blend learning and fun and show more of my passion to the students–all the reasons I wanted to be a teacher. So, third year is definitely the charm!