As October turns into November, so does STARS and three days a week at our placement become five days a week at our placement. I’ve learned a lot during STARS; being a place where I had chances to try out some aspects of teaching in a lower-stakes environment allowed me to take the lessons I learned with me while lessening the impact of the mistake it took to get to those lessons. I’m going to miss the bustle of Wednesdays and Thursday afternoons, the energy that came with doing science and watching the STARS grow into experts and leaders. And I’m also going to miss explaining in vain the difficulties of what I am doing to non-GRS folk. Some of them just do not have a clue.
Five days a week means about 40 hours at my placement, no more sleeping in twice a week, and five days of navigating the unexpected ins and outs of being an observing student teacher. As I am given more responsibility in the classroom, I feel more in tune with my role as a teacher as the lessons (and the mistakes) come at a more frenetic pace. One thing I really do enjoy about the process compared to Camp and STARS is that because everything is happening so much faster, the debrief and reflection does not become dwelling on my mistakes. There is a lot less self-pity about not doing a better job because guess what? The bell just rang and you’ve got four minutes between this class leaving and the next one starting, so quickly make an inventory of what was good and what was bad, do what you can to fix the mistakes for next class and oh my gosh they’re walking in the door. It’s go time. We (my CT and I) still do proper debriefs, but even those are less about dwelling and simply what I can improve upon and what I’ve done well. Being able to do both is key; to be good, one must know what to fix as well as what one needs to keep doing.
So with that, I step off my soapbox and present a few more lessons that I’ve learned from this past week of student teaching.
1. Five days a week is an absolute drain on the body and the mind. I didn’t quite have the requisite stamina to go five days. By the time Thursday rolled around, sure I could succeed in the school day, but that took everything I had. I was getting back from class by 8, in bed by 8:30 doing work and such, and involuntarily passing out by 10. While that can work for a few days, I’m going to have to find the energy for the other parts of my life eventually. For one thing, I really have to take better care of myself. That means eating better and getting the occasional bit of exercise into my schedule. If I’m breaking down by December, then I am no good to anyone. So the plan as of now is to cut down on processed carbs as best I can, remember to take my multivitamin, and actually stick to a consistent workout regimen. How much difference that makes remains to be seen, but for the first time, my diet and excursive habits are going to have to be a bit tighter in order to actually be productive during the day. Boy was I spoiled by undergrad.
2. As a teacher, your eyes have to be everywhere. This was apparent when I was playing a supportive role, as I felt like I was putting out one small fire to the next. In the lead role, that was even more apparent and if I didn’t deal with certain things they had the chance of getting out of hand. I would look down just to write something and when I looked back up, there was something to manage. This is still one of my areas of growth and my CT and I have worked out a few strategies. For example, when helping a student, make sure to stand at an angle where I could see the whole classroom. Secondly, do everything with my head at least partially up. That way I can still see what is going on while not derailing the lesson. I occasionally forget to do these two things, but now is the time to really be critical about my moment-to-moment actions and decisions, so I have to be more mindful of what I am doing and not go back into bad habits.
As a whole, I need to start picking at my bad habits, both in and out of the classroom, and take them down a notch. To be a focused and improving teacher, I need to be a focused and improving me. That doesn’t mean I’m not taking time for myself though, that’s all a part of taking care of myself. When it stops becoming care, then there is an issue.
Until next week! And a happy Veterans Day (and two days of sleeping in) to all.