I’ve officially been teaching now for over a month (6 weeks and 1 day, but who’s counting) and I learn something new everyday. I’ve had a bit of time to marinade on the big things, so I thought I’d share the top 5things I’ve learned on this magical adventure in exhaustion and joy.
Being Authentically You Is Everything
I’m not the strict disciplinarian type, and I’m certainly not a cool kid. Struggling between getting control of my rowdiest class and wanting them to not hate me, I think I’ve finally found my own identity.
This is such a necessary thing, to be you, just you as a teacher. I can’t be really strict because it’s not who I am, I also can’t pretend to like everything my students like because that’s not who I am. At the end of the day, they seem to be a lot more open to me when I’m being who I am, not who I feel like I should pretend to be.
Lesson Planning is the Worst
About six months ago, when I was applying for jobs and doing demo lessons, I spent a solid two hours on a lesson plan and thought to myself “I’m going to have to get better at this.”
I’m starting from scratch on three different classes and trying to differentiate for four classes of kiddos. Turns out that means a lot of lesson planning. And no I’m not quick or efficient yet. But amen for google slides.
A Good Department Team Can Save You
The history department at my school is small but fierce. We meet twice a week to discuss and plan and it’s cut out a lot of unnecessary double-planning because we’re able to share resources and ideas with each other.
In teaching, sharing is caring, and stealing is quite frankly the only way you’ll ever get it all done. Everyone needs another lesson idea and someone else out there has it to give to them.
Grad School No Longer Applies
I’ve learned some valuable things in my almost year at Columbia so far. The chief of these things however has not been curriculum mapping or school structures, it has been that teacher education programs are too far away from reality. I knew this but until I started teaching and learning at the same time, I didn’t realize how impressive the distance.
Doing a teacher preparation program while full time teaching is like working at Starbucks while talking classes about the chemical make up of each variety of coffee. Sure it’s interesting and might be useful one day, but no one taught me how to make a latte, so I’ll just be over here burning the hell out of my hands while I try to teach myself.
When Things Go Sideways, There’s Still Love
I’m amazed at how deeply I already care about my students. They are some of the funniest, kindest, strongest people I know. Do they drive me bonkers sometimes? Of course. But I want everything for them.
A couple of weeks ago there was a physical fight in my room. It escalated quickly but eventually it was contained. Truth be told, I’d been waiting for some big thing like this to happen. My mistake was thinking that I would be irritated or annoyed at the students involved. In reality I stayed up worrying about them: what would their punishment be? Were they ok? Had anyone stopped and talked them through their thoughts and feelings?
The students are fine now and things will be getting back to normal soon, but it struck me that even in the worst scenarios, there’s always love.
So, that’s basically how you teach. As you can tell, I’m totally an expert now. Or something…Either way, I’d love to hear/read your thoughts, particularly from any current, previous, or future teachers.
Best of luck.