Wow, it has been a while since I last posted! I knew this would happen because inevitably the start of the school year means getting caught up in the hectic schedule of school life, teaching and coaching all at once again. The start of year 8 has been incredible, but also demanding. Overall, it’s been going very well and I’m excited for how I’ve grown the past few months because of some new challenges.
Firstly, I’m teaching a new class this year–Spanish 1–and although it’s nice to test out my teaching experience it also keeps me quite busy during my plan period. Still, I am thankful for this new prep because I’m finding that in creating this course from scratch I’ve become a more critical lesson planner and I’m re-evaluating my lessons and materials for my other courses. This new prep also allows me to have the “I’m not sure if this is going to work or meet the intended goal” feeling that comes along with being a new teacher. It’s good to have this feeling again, because teachers often get stuck in their comfort zones and it can stifle the creative process that is teaching. I needed this “jolt” to my daily schedule in order to reflect on my practice and ultimately work to improve it even more. After all, the creative part of teaching is what makes it fun. So, I’ve had more fun this year already in creating new activities and getting students who have never had a Spanish class excited about learning the language.
In addition, I can tell what a difference my teaching experience affords me in having this new class. It wasn’t long ago that I was a new teacher prepping two new classes at the same time without much of a clue as to what I was doing. Everything was short-sighted in my planning and I didn’t know the end goal for my students. This meant lessons were choppy, inconsistent and quite frankly dull. Now, I can create entire units for my new class and know how to weave things together to enhance the learning and add plenty of fun to each lesson along the way. I don’t feel stressed wondering what’s coming next because I can remember the overall picture. This level of confidence in my work is what teaching experience provides, which is why the job just gets better every year. Of course I still make plenty of mistakes and my lessons are far from perfect, but these pale in comparison to my first few years as a teacher. It really makes me wonder how my students learned anything in those first few years.
Secondly, this year I also have seen the impact that experience has had on my coaching. The girls’ volleyball season was great this year, although juggling coaching with a new prep is what has kept me from writing more posts here. There is a lot of overlap between coaching athletes and teaching students. The more experience I have with different age groups and now in coaching having just a single gender team (whether girls or boys season), the more I learn how to manage behavior and help each child reach his or her potential. This season I felt more natural in my role and was able to come up with better practices that would help the team reach an expected outcome, much like I do in the classroom every day. My head coach even gave me feedback at the end of the season that he had seen my growth this year, which was the highest compliment.
Lastly, this year I have set forth goals for my teaching as part of my yearly evaluation. I am working on student growth through goal setting and reflection while also working on using test data to drive instruction. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the new professional development system in Missouri because I believe it’s important for teachers to have a yearly goal to focus on in order to better their instruction. I have already had some success this year through setting up an online grade portfolio for each student to track his or her own data and send me regular feedback. I have built in time before each quiz so students are accustomed to this process which reinforces its effectiveness. There is definitely a lot of trial and error involved in honing one’s teaching practice, but that’s what makes the job so enjoyable.
So year 8 is off to a great start. I continue to grow and develop in my practice and I can tell the different it makes for my students and their success. It can be exhausting, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.