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Weekly Reflection: The new school year

This week marks the beginning of the school year in New Zealand.

Along with new students there will also be new teachers who will start teaching ‘for real.’

I’m sure that most of the teachers are feeling a bit like me. Wildly oscillating between “woohoo the kids are arriving next week I can’t wait to start trying out all these cool ideas in the classroom” and “ZOMG I’m responsible for a class of students whatever could they possibly learn from me?”

One of the hardest parts of entering the world of teaching is that there’s no shallow end of the pool for Beginning Teachers to dip our toes into. On Tuesday 30 year 7/8 students and myself come together for at least a year of learning. While the year 8s know each other from last year, the year 7s and I will be the newbies and it’s my job to help bring us together as a class.

Wow is that a big difference between student teaching and real teaching.

In the past my teaching sat on top of my Associate Teacher’s classroom foundations. They had already put the systems and relationships in place. I just needed to follow and/or adapt them when I took control of their classes. Now I have assumed responsibility for the heavy lifting  required to build those classroom foundations and right now that load feels awful heavy. Throw in all the responsibilities, obligations and expectations and I’m daunted by the enormity of the task of getting through what needs to be done let alone implementing any of those new ideas I’ve got buzzing around in my head.

Ahh yes a typical start of the year situation rears its ugly head, idealist graduate meets the cold, hard reality of classroom teaching.

I feel very fortunate that my week included 3 days of Professional Development on building relationships, using cooperative learning strategies and inquiry-based learning. Perhaps my key take-away from this week is that if the classroom environment isn’t supportive of learning then any news that I want to implement will be lost if I can’t take the kids along on the journey. It’s the line many new teachers need to walk the line between innovation and teaching fundamentals, between being cutting edge and bleeding edge.

So seeing as it is the start of the term, its a good time to set some goal setting for myself.

Relationship management Teachers need to have great relationships with their students.  But perhaps more importantly there needs to be environment in the classroom where the kids to be able to learn from each other.  I also need to further develop relationships with the other teachers in my school asking for help when I need it, taking on and adapting advice.

Language I’m by far my harshest critic convinced that my lesson plans suck, my classroom looks awful and basically I’m the worst teacher ever.  Perhaps I need to be aware that all this negative self-talk floating around in my head may start seep into my classroom talk and definitely colours my perception of the task at hand.  Adjectives matter. Perhaps instead of  “hard and difficult”  I could say challenging, “that sucks” becomes “how can I improve?” and “good” migrates to “effective.” More importantly when reflecting on my classroom time I need to start by looking at what has gone well instead of immediately zeroing in on areas for improvement.

Literacy I didn’t do much literacy teaching during student teaching and it’s curriculum area I feel I lacking in terms of content knowledge. Yes I do a lot of reading and writing however I am digital reader and writer best suited to the immediacy and interactivity of the web. Despite working in a digitally savvy school I know my kids will still be using pencil and paper. More importantly I need to have some effective systems and processes in place during literacy sessions.

These aren’t grand goals that are going to shake the world of education to its core but they are my next learning steps.

I know that taking by taking a more conservative road there’s a risk of being sucked into a vortex of dull conformity that comes from being part of a system designed from another time. But the more I think about it, the more I realize we need to get away from this idea of creativity being some lone flash of insight when perhaps it comes from continually refining your own practice and more importantly taking on the ideas of others.

In that regard I feel humbled that I have so many awesome people to learn from and ask questions. During my PD one of the tasks was to find some inquiry learning resources on the web. Being somewhat lazy, I simply put a tweet out and  sure enough within just a few hours several answers had popped up from people spread across the globe. So yes while I might be part of a system designed in the industrial age, there’s a network of fantastic educators in my actual staffroom as well my virtual one who I can learn from.

Part of my ‘pay it forward’ to my virtual colleagues is to document my own journey so that others can learn too (the ones in my physical space get pie).

I’m totally expecting this term to probably be challenging, tiring, crazy but also hugely rewarding. So my last goal is somewhat simplistic. If the students and I can finish the term with a smile and wondering where the time went to then that would be awesome.

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