New year, old me

It’s been quite some time since I posted. Well, actually, I had a post written before Christmas break but it was not a good post. I mean that in a literal way – it was a post that was full of negativity and frustration. Like many other teachers this year (what is it with this year?) I’ve been struggling with my teaching. In my case, it was affecting my life so badly that I was not enjoying my job very much anymore. One major step that I took was to resign as director of play production. I tried it for 5 years and the very particular challenges and stresses that come with it are simply not for me. I think of October, November, and December as a giant black hole where all I did was worry and work. My teaching was mediocre at best, and I was not in a good place. So when it comes to a new year and starting over, I don’t really want to start over – I want to go back to prior semesters where I felt capable, where I felt confident, where my lessons were interesting, and I was able to be the wonderful teacher I know I am.

In that vein, rather than complaining about all the things that make me miserable, I’m going to talk about some wonderful opportunities I had in December. As part of the Adolescent Literacy Learning group (you can read about part one and part two), one of the things we had to do was observe each other in the classroom and informally evaluate our teaching using the rubric. Even doing observations the last week before finals, I was really astounded by the skills that my peers have. Our students here have no idea how excellent their teachers really are – most of them haven’t ever known any other way.

One of the things we look for in our observations is clarity of directions, group/choral work (everyone does everything), and use of academic language. I watched my colleagues use graphic organizers to break down tasks into bite-sizes pieces that were digestible by all students. I watched them ask for partner sharing, and the students all knew the drill. In every case, I watched the teacher break down the task for a student who needed a little bit of prompting – some students needed more, some needed less, but I loved watching my colleagues coach other students.

It’s also interesting to compare other teachers’ classroom management and dynamics to my own. Some teachers prefer to address the whole class, others like to break it down into small groups and help each group separately. In all cases, my room is way louder than everyone else’s! (I don’t know if that’s because everyone was extra quiet because I was there, or if I just have terrible classroom management, but I think most of it is due to the noisy nature of language learning.) It’s also interesting to see how different students interact with different teachers. We all have cases where we have students who are perfectly fine for us, but are disengaged or outright disrespectful to other teachers. Thankfully, I only saw wonderful work from the students as well.

Even though I wasn’t having the best semester of my teaching career, being able to observe the experience and abilities of my colleagues was very refreshing to me. I look forward to observing different teachers in the future. And as always, I love the glimpses into other classrooms through teacher blogs. I hope the spring semester goes better for all of us. Remember, we’re all in this together!

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