Sunday, March 18, 2007

When your tail is so short...

It happened. I have been bitten by the blog bug so now people can finally take a glimpse into the simple and sarcastic world that my brain inhabits. I have given it much thought, about what to write today, and I have finally landed on a theme that I know some people will truly understand.

I am in my 3rd year of teaching middle school science. I absolutely love my profession and I readily enjoy working with my team of teachers and the kids we have. But (and there is always a BUT), I have never worked harder in my entire life to make meaningful lessons and projects, to ensure that I am reaching the most students I possibly can as well as creating applicable assessments. Our planning times are muddied up with meetings, student-parent conferences, training segments and committee obligations. Don’t get me wrong, I fully comprehend the importance of each and every one of these events, but it cuts into the time I feel is needed in order to me to “be” a successful teacher.

Regardless of the time constraints, the weekend planning and the late night grading sessions, I still want to be good at what I do. And honestly, I feel like I am finally becoming a real teacher. Experienced teachers always told me that you really do not start "coming into your own" as an educator until about your 3rd year. I remember brushing that advice off like a gnat at a barbeque, you know, as if I "knew so much with my tail being so short". I have no qualms admitting it now though, Dad - you were right.

Nothing prepares you for your 1st official year. NOTHING. No college degree (and no masters degree for that matter), no student-teaching interning experience and no amount of preparation even comes close to priming yourself for your own classroom with your own kids and your own activities. All of the above mentioned activities are simply warm-ups for what your classroom might be like.

I liken the 2nd year of teaching to your beginning teenage years. You still feel awkward, clumsy and question whether or not you are going to amount to anything, just like at that middle school dance where you wanted to slow dance with an 8th grade boy named Matt but you were too nervous he would say no. You want to be a good teacher and you want your kids to be good students, but there is still something lacking in that final equation: experience.

My 3rd year is coming close to its end and I can vouch that I have finally blossomed into something. Something great? No, not yet. But I will get there, someday. I think another important aspect of teaching is that you must never be completely satisfied, you must never feel like you are the epitome of the perfect educator and you can never stop teaching and learning yourself.

To all of you teachers out there, young or experienced, aspiring or retired…

Thank you and good luck.


Jason said...

I wish I could tell you, but as you have seen from me, the forth year is not going to be much better. My experience would probably have been much different if I did not change schools though. You are at a good place which makes you happy, so I guarantee that year 4 will be great for you.

Mr. Chase said...

I vote yes.
One thing my brain snagged on was your comment on preparing lessons that would pull in as many students as possible. It's important beyond words. Phoenix's mission statement (abridged) is "Every student, Every day."
Several times as I prepared to be a teacher and several times over my first few years as a teacher, there have been those who tell me that as long as I can touch the life of just one student then I have been a success.
Forget that. In no other field would that be counted as a success rate. Imagine the mechanic who fixes one out of 100 cars he's paid to repair or the ad rep. who convinces consumers to by one of whatever item he's paid to sell. They would not be counted as successful in their fields.
Right, before this becomes its own post, I'll end it here. First, welcome to the blogosphere. Keep up the good work and I can't wait to read your next post.
More later.

Steve Cantees said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Cantees said...

Such interesting thoughts! And now this school administrators perspective.

Let me give you another perspective that I think Jason can testify to. Experience definitely counts for something, but (and there really is always a but) I think there is a more important trait/characteristic that one must now have more than ever to be a successful teacher.

Three years, four years, doean't mean as much as it used to. One must be adaptable and resilient like never before. The face of teaching is changing rapidly (ever think about blogging 2-3 years ago) and we have to be able to change with it. Technology, a flat world, accountability from suspect sources and challenging student demographics force us to be on top of a changing game EVERYDAY.

So, I'll take adaptability over experience anyday all things being fairly equal. This has huge ramifications for teachers and their profession and huge ramifications for school administrators. Experience will allow you to be more efficient, but learn to enjoy the changing faces of our profession. And, stay on top of your game with meaningful learning experiences including relevant professional develpment.

I really have no idea what next year will bring our profession except I do know it will bring more change. It is what I love about my job and by embracing it makes this a great journey and a lifelong learning experience!

Simonisays said...

Meaningful fragements! Not as catchy as simonisays, but quite relevant. Great post

Kappa said...

I'm going through a phase in life where I have to decide what I have to do next. Its a toss up between teaching (uni) and working for one of those companies that can make you rich (somewhat) in a few years.

I love the idea of teaching for I feel that it adds a whole new dimension of meaning to life. Reading your article reinforced my beliefs to a certain extent. I don't know if I have the guts to follow through though.

Fingers X'ed, and looking ahead to life!

Oh, and thanks for stopping by my page. :)