Thinking back on the first month, looking forward to challenges ahead

I’m thinking back today, in order to better think ahead.

The first month of school is already done. It went by in a blur. One of the things I love about teaching is that the days never drag. The classroom is never boring to me. I love the energy, the fast pace, and being in the presence of children and learning every day. That fast pace was certainly evident last month! The year ahead became more clear as well.

I have a challenging assignment this year. I thought last year was tough with a new job, the Connected Classrooms to learn about and my Masters degree to finish. One thing I quickly realized during the first month of school was how challenging this year’s group really is. If I want to teach them all, make sure they each get the individual attention they deserve so that no one falls through the cracks, if I really want to teach them, I’ve got my work cut out for me. I almost feel like last year was a warm up, and I did a good job, so this year the universe has decided to throw a new challenge at me and see how I do with this one.

 

To be productive, here are the successes of last month and a few things I need to be mindful of as the year progresses.

Positives:

  1. Overall, an active group! Another 2:1 ratio for boys to girls, and they are very active, fit, energetic, athletic kids in general. The top three students in the Terry Fox Run last week were all from my class. Needless to say, there can be no PE or DPA times missed! I think students perform better with an injection of physical activity into the school day. I know it takes time, but it’s time well spent.
  2. Diversity is going to be our overarching theme this year. Without going into details, I have several students who live life with extra challenges each day. I want to somehow turn the diversity of our classroom community into our strength. I plan on highlighting everyone’s strengths and talking about ways to compensate and live with the struggles. I want to emphasize the humanity in each person in the room. I hope to build tolerance, acceptance, understanding and strength. No small feat, but I see it in my mind and feel strongly that it’s the right thing to do.
  3. I have a lot of support. My admin is aware of the challenges this group brings, so my class is a priority for extra support this year. I’ve attended two meetings focused on how best to meet student needs and ensure their success with this class composition. Meetings with parents are upcoming. I have at least one other adult in my room throughout the day, and, during numeracy and literacy blocks, I have two extra people in to help out. I am very grateful for this support and I plan to work with parents and families as much as possible this year.
  4. I’m loving (and the students are too!) the new methods I’m using for teaching math. Thank you Dan Meyer. I watched the TEDx talk of his entitled ‘Math Curriculum Makeover‘ and it crystallized all the concerns I had from teaching math last year. If you haven’t watched it, and you teach math, take the twelve minutes. Absolutely worth it!
  5. I was able to achieve a nice balance in my life during the transition from summer break into the school year start up. I’m going to need energy for the students, but also for my own children at home, and I am aware of the fact that I’m still recuperating from the Masters coursework last year. I’ve been able to establish a nice balance between looking after myself, being a (I hope) good parent, and working hard to be a good teacher.

Things to be mindful of as the year goes along:

  1. Stay positive! I found myself sliding into a state of worry last month. Yes, it’s a challenging group. But I can handle it. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why I’m sliding into a ‘down’ mindset, but I think part of it is that I miss the enthusiastic, intense infusion of positive energy that I experienced working with my MEd cohort every other weekend last year. I miss those people and the way that they inspired me each week. I get to see them all this Friday (so excited!) and I’m going to have to find a way to keep in touch from afar. Thank goodness for Twitter and email!
  2. Connected to this purposeful striving to maintain a positive mindset is my own professional development. I need to use pro-d in a positive way this year. I have several conferences that I’m looking forward to, partly because of the great learning I expect to experience, but also because of the passionate educators I know I will meet. I need to look for those opportunities to engage with others in an upbeat, uplifting way. Thank goodness for social media and my PLN!
  3. I need to figure out a good system for assessment. I’m thinking of splitting the class into groups and observing/paying extra attention to/talking with/taking notes on one group each day. I usually don’t do my assessments in such a structured way, but with this group, I think I may need to.
  4. I’m still settling and I need time to think. I’ve never liked quiet. I grew up in a noisy household and I used to be the type of person who would turn on the radio and the tv if I was home alone. Not any more. Now, I seek quiet and time to think. I’m guessing that I need this time to let my thoughts continue to settle from all the learning of the last year. It’s as if I need processing time. I’ve only just figured this out in the last week, so now that I now, I’ll be seeking quiet spaces for contemplation and time to let my mind wander, process and settle.
I could keep going, but that seems manageable for now and I’m hoping to revisit this at the end of next month. It’s all part of the purposeful mindset that I seem to have now that the Masters degree is done. It still feels a little unsettling, but the new awareness is worth being pushed beyond my comfort zone. And I’m sure, eventually, at some point, I’ll figure it out. With a little help from my friends, colleagues, students, family, keyboard and pen, no doubt!
Imagery Wither on the Vine by dianecordell from Flickr.com and used under creative commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4 Comments

  1. K. Lirenman says:

    Errin, it sounds like you’ve got your head in a good space with all the challenges you’re dealing with this year. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher. Take it one breath at a time. Wishing you the very best this school year. Karen (@lirenmanlearns)

    • egregory says:

      Hi Karen! I appreciate the kind words! I think the intentional headspace is partly a result of the new awareness gained from the Masters year. I am very grateful for this! Wishing you all the best this year too!

      And thanks for the reminder to breathe, I’m going to need it!

  2. I so enjoyed reading this post. Your sense of care and purpose are evident as well as your desire to build a thoughtful, collaborative classroom. I’m glad to hear that you have some supports in the classroom. One year when I had a class similar to yours, I made the mistake of going too fast and putting community second. No matter what standards and curriculum you pursue, the most important factor in your classroom will be the caring community you are developing. Thanks for your honest sharing–your students are lucky to have a dedicated teacher like you.

    • egregory says:

      Hi Maureen! I’m glad you enjoyed it! I do care about my students, and I’m hoping to create a great year of learning for them all, regardless of the challenges they face. I think because I know there’s a real challenge here that I’m viewing it as such and that purpose will help me to do the best job I can.

      Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts, and for your kind, supportive words!

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