Year 7 – A Shift in Teaching

Normally I post at the beginning of the school year about how my mindset as a teacher has changed but year 7 was a busy one and it flew by!

I started this year with coaching girls volleyball for the first time. It was an amazing experience but it made the beginning of the year busier than usual, which is probably why I forgot this post.

This year was amazing in terms of growth in my teaching. I tried something different by arranging my desks in groups of three. I experimented with more student-driven activities and had a lot of success with engagement. I learned a lot from the year-long Missouri Teachers Academy professional development. And I really challenged myself to connect on a more personal level with my students and even with students in the school who aren’t in my class.

Here are the key takeaways from year 7: 

1. Preparation is KEY!

I spent the most time yet this year preparing for the school year by organizing my classroom with intention. I bought new supplies at The Dollar Store (highly recommend). I spent time arranging my desks until I came up with what I thought would be the perfect arrangement for how I wanted my class to flow every day. But, most importantly, after some years of experience I know how I wanted to lay out my class supplies, white boards, and teaching materials so that once the school year was underway it was so easy to keep track of everything. It took some years of teaching to come up with even better classroom preparation. I recommend that teachers evaluate this every year before school starts in order to start the year off strong.

2. It will ALWAYS be necessary to revise your lessons and your teaching materials. 

It’s easy as teachers to find a rhythm with our teaching and especially with our materials. Even though I re-use a lot of my lesson plans and handouts, I still have to revise them every year. This year I did a lot more revising in the middle of class. Why? Because I knew that something I was trying was not working and instead of forcing it to work (as a new teacher would do) I was able to come up with a new plan that worked much better. Experience is a life saver, but for some teachers it means complacency. We teachers plan A LOT of lessons. It takes years to make most of them good, but there is always room for improvement.

3. Take a moment every day to connect with your students. 

I don’t just mean a smile and “how are you?”. I mean following up with something they told you the day before or having a private conversation with someone while all the other students are working. I learned this year how I can better utilize time in the day to connect on a deeper level with my students. I use passing period to talk to them. I hold them after class just to find out if there’s anything I can do to help them. I even let them follow me on Instagram and this year I learned how to use it as a tool to stay in touch with their lives outside of school. They trust me and respect me more because they can see more of my personal life but I don’t have to waste precious learning time to share it. It’s just so gratifying when you take time to really get to know your students and I admit I wasn’t as good at this my first few years of teaching.

It was the best year teaching I’ve had yet and I’m started to understand how with experience teaching just gets better and better. For year 8, I’m going to be teaching a new prep: Spanish 1! I’m excited to challenge my teaching skills and design a course from the ground up again. But for now, happy summer!

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