Week one of the new school year is in the books, so on a rainy Saturday morning the green tea has kicked in enough to allow me to be a little reflective.
Here are Five Things I know after a week back at school:
- I Really Like Teaching. It feels strange to say it, but it was comforting to be back in the classroom, doing what I love. It was like slipping on a favourite jacket or a pair of comfortable shoes. I realized how much I missed it over the summer.
- Most Students Like School. The first week of school, when everyone is rested and healthy, is great time to remind myself that, at their core, 99% of students want to do well, want to learn and are excited to be at school. There are things they don’t like, and they get anxious sometimes, but they mostly want to be there and to learn. This is sometimes hard to see in the “dog days” of February, when the bumps along the way have soured some students on school. Even then, that “First Day” student is still in there. The student with the shiny new pencils and a smile. I just need to look a little harder to find them.
- Good Teaching is Like Jazz. Provide activities that aren’t engaging and students quickly get bored and don’t do their best. Ask students to do something too hard and they get anxious and shut down. These “tipping points” are in different places for each student and change from day-to-day. It’s working with these factors that make good teaching both an art and a science. You need the technical knowledge of what to do, but you have to constantly adjust and modify on the fly to make it work. I like the analogy of “Teaching as Jazz”. Not sure whose that is (not mine) but it feels about right. You need to have a basic structure but also to improvise as you go, to react to a multitude of factors (plus I like the notion of being as cool as Miles Davis. If I sell this can I wear sunglasses in class while I teach? PLEASE???)
- Planning is Over Rated. The need to improvise and modify on the fly means that the many hours poured into plans are mostly unnecessary. I know why it happens. It’s the summer and after a while you start to think about the upcoming school year. You get nervous and you want to control that anxiety so you start making plans. It might make you feel better, but you forgot. Learning never goes as planned. It has its own ideas and will go where it wants to. If you listen, you can guide, channel and support it, but if you try to force it where YOU think it should go the results are less than ideal and sometimes harmful.
- Educators Are Cool. Doing something you love, work that is meaningful and makes a difference in the lives of others, is a pretty good way to spend your days. It’s not always easy or smooth, but overcoming the obstacles you face is part of the fun. You can’t experience the joy of victory without the risk of occasional defeat. Working with other, similarly minded professionals is very inspiring. Seeing the commitment, dedication and skills that others bring to the task makes me want to be better. The supportive relationships I have with other professionals, who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas, makes it possible for me to keep growing. I feel very grateful for that.
It’s been a great start to the school year and I’m looking forward to week 2.