"One fails forward to success." - Charles F. Kettering
Luckily, I received my current teaching job a few weeks after graduating from Eastern University. This was definitely a check off my life's to-do list! Making lists is an obsession of mine, and a habit I try to break! I have grocery lists, classroom lists, around-the-house lists, and so on...obviously, I would have a life list. My life list is the only one I do not write down, since that would be strange to say the least! I was ecstatic to start the school year, while being slightly apprehensive to begin my career with 6th graders. From other teachers and friends, I heard 'rumors' about 6th grade behavior, difficulty of curriculum, and not to mention talk about individual students in my room. Am I ready for this?
Failure #1: Classroom Management
Each and every year, I enjoy my students' unique personalities and talents they bring to our classroom family. I would not say my students were out-of-hand my first year, but I made the mistake of wanting to be "liked." Maybe I was having my own popularity contest...I wanted to be their friend and their favorite! I spent the previous summer setting up my classroom and diving into the curriculum. I did not take much time to "visualize" my classroom routines, management plan, or much else. There were behaviors I did not address the way I should, which later turned disrespectful. A few months in, I realized my problem. It was time to sink or swim, do or die. I took my Christmas break to research strong management plans and decide the specific plan that would be best for myself and my students. I had a classroom meeting with my students, apologizing for my lack of discipline and management system, explained the new procedure, and jumped right in! I struggled with being consistent for awhile, but by the end of the year my classroom was running smoothly and I felt more comfortable in my own skin.
Each year I tend to change my classroom management system - sometimes in small amounts and other times all together. I am going into my fourth year of teaching (now in 4th grade) and I am still trying to figure out what works for me! My students and I work together throughout the year to create a safe, accepting environment where we can learn from each other and have a good time! Lets just say I no longer "forget" my management plan! :)
Failure #2: "I am the teacher."
As you work with your curriculum and teach the subject matter - you begin to learn more and more about what you are teaching. My first year - I knew what was in my teacher manuals. It was hard for me to get my head above water (wow, there is so much you learn EVERY year, but especially year one!). I did not feel confident during each lesson, because I was 'afraid' that I would not be able to answer their questions. Come on, I was the teacher - I should know this stuff! One day, a student of mine made a correction to something I said, adding his expertise to the discussion. Not wanting to look 'bad', I made the mistake of telling him that he was wrong. Maybe not exactly in those words, but nevertheless it was my point. I felt terrible, actually sick to my stomach all night. I researched the topic and his thoughts, realizing I was ultimately wrong. The next day, I discussed in science class my error and apologized to the student. I explained that we all make mistakes and I do not know EVERYTHING. I could sense my students' appreciation, and felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. We created a poster saying "questions we have" and would list specific questions after lessons, activities, reading assignments, etc. My students would be motivated to solve our problems & questions.
This failure reminded me a lot about the inquiry-based learning we read about this week. Ultimately, this experience changed my view of my students. We are all learners in the classroom. I appreciate their knowledge and strengths, giving them opportunities to 'teach'. The past couple years, I have continued to encourage my students to ask questions about what I am teaching...