October is the month where teaching starts to get real. By now the school has sorted through all of the beginning of the year hiccups, and your kids have all gotten comfortable in the room. This time of year, October, is where it starts to become about you. Right now if it might feel like you are having problems or your plans from the summer are falling apart, and it’s easy to get frustrated with yourself. Don’t get too down on yourself at this point of the year. Now is the time to take a positive look at yourself to remind yourself how silly it is to get down on yourself so early in the year.
This is why I’m hot
First thing you should do is look at all things that are ‘hot’. On a sheet of paper, or in your evernote, or even on your blog list out all of the things going well. Here are some prompts to think about:
- What systems are functioning?
Looking at the goings on around your classroom, what things are working so well that you take them for granted. Some days I think back to the first October of my teaching and I had to change my entire system for pretty much everything (how they entered the class, how they took notes, what should happen when they throw broken crayons across the room, etc.). I persisted through the world falling apart around me only 10 years ago, yet now I act as though it’s bedlam when it takes more than a minute to transition to group work. Give yourself some credit, and think through all of the things that are going well. If you can’t think of anything, ask a colleague to come in and write down what they notice.
- What students are responding?
In your room there might be 1 or 2, kids who are not getting it, and seeing them struggle can’t help but get to you. You’ve pulled them aside, rearranged the seats, and even worked their names into a worksheet but you still can’t make any progress with them. Well what about the kids who are responding? What is working for them? If you don’t have any idea what will work, maybe gather some information with exit tickets. You’re better off improving the overall experience for all your students than targeting just the one or two trouble spots. That’s like the guy who wants to cut down his gut, but instead of getting a better diet, doing all around cardio, and purusing a more active lifestyle, they strap on a slendertone ab flexing belt and curls up on the couch with a pillow and a pint of ice cream.
- What extremes have you been able to navigate?
Teaching is a constant dance between extremes. First you want a loud, energetic discussion, then you want a quiet, focused independent work time. Maybe your students will be thinking through all the ways to challenge an idea, and next they’ll want to think of all the ways to support some other idea. You probably begin most lessons wanting students to be in their comfort zone, only by the end of it, have them grappling with something completely new. Swinging from one extreme to other, whether it be in content, or classroom layout, or interaction style, is a difficult and important task. Before you worry about how far forward you wanted them to go, give yourself credit about how much lateral progress you were able to make along the way.
- Other reasons you’re awesome
There are lots of things you have to write down. You just aren’t doing it because you’re modest. Come on, if you’re going to get down on yourself, you owe it to yourself to brag a little bit first. Write down all the reasons you’re awesome and some of the positive things going on in your class.
This why I’m not
Next, after you’re done with the positive list, and hopefully shifted your perspective, list out all the things aren’t working well. As you write, you need to think about the next steps. Don’t think that once your list of things are finished you can just curl up on the coach with the Triple-P (Pillow, Pajamas, Pint of Ben & Jerry’s) and feel sorry for your self. You’ll have to get your growth mindset in gear, and make plans to have growth in those areas that aren’t working. Make plans to address them so next time you can say: “Well this isn’t working, but I am on the way to fixing it. Some general plans to getting things fixed could include:
- Asking for help from colleagues, friends, or other people
- Trying a new technique to see if it works
- Reading more resources for teaching
- Looking around the #MTBOS for ideas
- Sitting down with people in your class and getting to the root of the issue
- Sticking with what you’ve been doing, but with more preparation, more planning, and broken up into different chunks.
Hopefully this helps out, I’m only a little ways into teaching, but I’m going to explain why I’m hot, and why I’m not in a few weeks.