Once More Into The Breach

So the blog is back after a rather long hiatus. It was a pretty wild ride. A lot of lessons learned and a lot of humbling moments as well. Then again, the best lessons learned come from our moments of failure. I don’t know what it is about having to learn a lesson by making a mistake, but it sure as heck sticks with you a lot longer and you learn a lot from it.

So, from the fall placement and a few bouts of sickness sprinkled in I emerge anew (ish) to start my new chapter at my spring placement.

A few big lessons I will take with me from the fall into “Student Teaching Placement 2: Teach Harder”

1. Take online resources with a MASSIVE grain of salt.

When hit with a round of “teacher’s block” (what I cal those moments one is stumped while writing a lesson plan), the internet might seem to be a good place to gain some inspiration and perhaps steal an idea or two. The trouble is that most of the lesson plans and activities available online are… well… not very good. They do not fit that reform-minded science teaching that we are trying to accomplish very well. In addition, they often require materials, reading skills, or time that we do not have nor do they make good use of the three llimiting factors.

This is not to say that they are without merit. While I will borrow very little from these plans, the search can sometimes yield good lessons plans, or at the very least a a few jumping off points to take when creating a lesson plan. You may have to borrow from a few online sources, but after the end you have a decent idea of where to start. At the very least, you can look at the stuff online and be fairly confident of what not to do.

2. It’s perfectly okay to be strict, just be fair.

As I was reading through the evaluations my students wrote for me, one of the biggest points they made was that I had improved on my ability to control the classroom and be a strict teacher.  Strict didn’t mean I was screaming and escalating situations, strict meant that I was addressing everything I could and always doing my best to make sure that everyone was making the classroom a safe place where learning could be done. Even the kids who were not the best behaved appreciated my being on their case all the time. Of course they didn’t say this out loud, but I could recognize their handwriting on the evaluation. It kind of kills the anonymity of the whole thing but oh well. The big part of that was being fair and consistent. If the fifth different kid starts chatting while you are trying to give instruction, you still have to stay calm and treat it like the first time because it is the first time for that particular student and however you handled that matter with the other students is how you have to handle it now. That patience is key. Small issues should be treated as such, that way when the big issues come up, the severity is not lost on the students because you’ve saved the more scary tone and those words for the big issues that arise.

3. Trust your instincts

As someone who had difficulty with this in the very beginning, I am proud of the steps I have taken in being able to trust my instincts, so I want to continue that trend. It’s that ability to remember your lesson plan, look at the classroom and say, “they are having trouble with this, let’s move on to the next thing,” even though your plan allotted more time for it. There are moments where those snap decisions have to be made, and the worst thing one can do is to not act at all.

Your instincts are not perfect and there will be moments where a decision that was made could be made better, but that is no reason to discredit it. The fear of a minor slip-up cannot get in the way of making every decision. At a new placement, it will take time to know my students and “feel out the room,” but trusting my instincts will lead to good things and the lesson will more organically fit the day-to-day needs of my students because quite frankly, the needs differ day to day.

And a few little lessons:

-Teaching with a suddenly full bladder is the worst.

-Knowing how to clear a paper jam goes a long way

-Nothing ever takes the amount of time you allot for it

-Candy is the great equalizer, even though it shouldn’t be

-Sometimes, you just have to ask a student to commit to a nickname, or at least give you fair warning.

-Everyone needs to use the bathroom in your class, so figure that out as best you can.

-No mater how you’ve given the instructions, you might have to explain them a few times.

-The mental difference between a single sheet of paper and two stapled together is immense. So try to avoid packets if you can manage it.

-The students who are disruptive are the ones seeking you out in the hallways.

-Avoid/closely monitor supplies that can be used as projectiles.

There will be more personal/professional musings to come next week after some time at my new placement. Stay warm and bye for now!

P.S.: I leave you with a quick webcomic. You know, because…

Science in a “double bubble”

4 thoughts on “Once More Into The Breach

  1. #2: While I agree with you (and also found that students who I didn’t expect to gave me great reviews), I do have one push back: There is something to be said for a teacher being human. I don’t think that its entirely unfair that a teacher gets frustrated when he/she is interrupted a lot, even if those are different students doing it. We are human. They would get frustrated, too, and I think its ok for them to see that. Yes, I believe in picking your battles. Don’t get angry. Don’t punish harder, but don’t be afraid to be human.

    I learned this lesson the hard way. I had come from working in customer service in a four diamond hotel. There, the customer was always right, to a ridiculous extreme. I got a job working in mental health and addiction. A client was rude to me, apologized for it the next day, and I said ‘Its ok’. My good friend corrected me ‘No, it isn’t ok! You forgive him. You appreciate his apology, but it isn’t ok. You WERE hurt! You aren’t in customer service anymore. Its ok for him to realize that his actions hurt others!’

    A love your little lessons! A few more that I’ve learned

    – If you don’t put a line where students are to put an answer, they won’t even realize there is a question there.

    – Slightly wrinkled paper bothers students. I tend to slightly wrinkle paper. They would often ask for a better one. Ha!

  2. Eric… loved this blog… lots to think about…. and the chalk talk gave me loads to ponder! thanks, Jo Ann

    ps. a bit of push-back on the push-back…. being human is our right, but it is our duty to showcase the human-ness that shows our shortcomings… a teacher can and may get frustrated with interruptions, but should work hard to avoid letting those frustrations get in the way of a functioning classroom…

  3. Your list of lessons is so on-point it’s actually unbelievable. I noticed having prizes for work goes a long way to keeping everyone on task and the projectile issue is almost never ending, definitely good things to always have in the back of your mind and to be on the lookout for. As for clearing a paper jam. I’d love a lesson in that because copiers have proved to be my biggest challenge of teaching…. besides actually teaching. Here’s to empty bladders for teacher and students everywhere! haha

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