New Teacher Chronicles: End of Year Reflections
While many teacher friends are buckling down and getting ready for summer vacation, I am finishing my short break and gearing up for two more months of teaching. (Oh, the joys of year-round schools!) Even though I technically do not end my year yet until the end of July, I wanted to write about some of my experiences and lessons this past year before something else distracts me and I forget to do it.
I loved The Inspired Classroom’s blog post, “What To Do With The End Of Year”, and will style my thoughts the same way.
What was accomplished:
First, I am very proud of myself for successfully getting through my first year of teaching. It has been a very difficult road since last August, especially with the multiple challenges of teaching in an inner-city school, juggling shifting roles and responsibilities, and learning how to both be a teacher leader as sole science teacher on staff and team-player with two departments. It was definitely a lot for a first year teacher to handle, but I persevered through many rough moments and managed to keep a sunny and positive attitude through it all. I am also proud that I advocated for myself, and took the initiative to find help several times. I was able to find a local mentor through STANYS, and support from various science email list serves, and from my professional learning network online. From this experience I have learned that I do not have to be alone in my experiences, that I am a much stronger person than I thought I was, and that the best thing I can do when it comes to change is to embrace it and run off with it.
Other accomplishments include letting students work harder than I do. I didn’t realize how difficult it was sometimes to just let go of control and let students take over. I started off the year with very detailed lesson plans and yes, I realized I micromanaged the room. Now I am able to designate students with tasks, stop a lesson when it isn’t working and improvise on my feet, and let students make a mess because I know and trust them to take care of it later. My thinking shifted from “I have to teach this” to “I have to teach them”. It seems a small change, but once I made that conscious shift, the way I taught greatly changed. Things became more fluid, and I was a less anxious teacher.
What still needs to get done:
Well, there are still two months left and two units on water. My one regret this year was that I didn’t truly get the chance to incorporate more forms of technology and inquiry and PBL-type activities in our daily learning. We have an iPad cart, and it was mostly unused for the year. I’d like to focus more on those issues when I get back. I want to use QR codes, iPad apps in lieu of lab probe ware, and get some mileage out of that class wikispace that we never seemed to get to.
I caved in and bought myself a new iPad because I’d like to experiment with ways of teaching and learning with it in the science classroom. The technical details seem daunting, but if I can pilot it this summer session, I can figure out how to use it for next year.
What I wish I did:
Hmm, this is a tough one. I wish I started off the year differently with my classroom behavior management. I wish I didn’t obsess so much on my work and burned out so quickly so many times. I can’t take back that lost time from family, from personal relationships, and from my health. I have learned that just as with my work, I need to give myself 100% commitment too. I have to learn how to balance my time and work load so that I can be happy and healthy at work and at home. A few of my goals moving forward are try to limit going overboard with my workload, focus on my relationships by not bringing too much work home or into our conversations, and to find outlets via exercise, meditation, and other hobbies.
Overall, it has been a good year for personal and professional growth. I look forward to these last two months, and to coming back as a better person and teacher next year.