Sunday, February 28, 2016

And Now the Positive Side to the Second Year

That blog post went dark.  Pretty quickly.  I wasn't feeling the best about myself at that time, and I decided to just clear out my brain.  Which oddly helped.  But the other side of that is that we need to fill in the space made by clearing out the bad by filling it in with something good.  So, let's try and do this so those of you who may be younger teachers than I can feel like the world isn't all terrible.

You are a Better Teacher
This will not seem right at all.  But believe me, when it comes down to it, you are better.  Seriously.  It may seem like on some days that all you can do is make mistakes, but they are mistakes that are not just because you are new.  They are mistakes because this job is hard, and that's how you learn. Whenever I feel like poop, I listen to the Tarzan soundtrack from Disney and scream along with the "In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn" part.   It ends with "all these things will come to you in time."  Thank you, Phil Collins.

New Students
My first year, I had a group of students who pushed every button I had.  I had to think on my feet so fast to just get through a day and get anything done.  This year, thanks to those students, I feel like I knew what to kind of do if it came up again.  Yes, there were many new challenges (see last post) but it has been wonderful to get to know a group of students and still see some of your old ones.  New jokes, new lessons, new personalities.  It has been a great year with these scientists, and I'm super proud to see how my past scientists are doing.

Honing New Skills
I make a conscious decision to get better at a thing a year.  This year was being timely on updating the online grading, and I feel like I have generally become much stronger at that and I still have the skills I honed last year, like planning using Post-Its (shout out to all my teacher friends who showed me how to do this) and positive narration, but boy howdy did grading get to me.  I've learned how to get as much grading done as humanly possible as fast as possible.  I also learned the best thing for me, is to focus on that thing.  I tried to implement a bunch of new  tricks, and many of them no longer are being used.  I figure I still have them, and the same thing happened last year until I kind of cracked those tricks this year.  I figure when it comes down to it, I'll keep learning a new trick a year and that's pretty fantastic.

People Know Your Name
I saved the best and least obvious for last.  It is amazing your second year to have name recognition.  I had to introduce myself last year or, in one case, hear someone ask my friend "who is Ms. S?" in front of me.  Now, thanks to chaperoning a few field trips and word of mouth, I am kind of known at school.   There are still batches of kids who have no idea who I am besides that mean lady who sends them back to class, but I have a way better relationship with other teachers.  Which is to say, I have a relationship with the other teachers at all.  I actually have some pretty great friends as a support network, and that I think may actually be the best part of being a second year teacher.

Yeah.  This definitely helped.  Hope it helps you too!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Second Year Teaching

As you can see by my crazy consistent posting, teaching as a second year teacher has been tough.  And, being the loving and generous author I am, I want to walk you through why it is so tough subject by subject.

All New Kids
Ok, this one sounds like a no brainer, but as a 1st year teacher, you find tricks that work with your group of quiz.  Talking out of turn?  Participation points.  Oodles of latework?  Ironclad latework policy second semester.  Basically, everything you came up with is tailored to that group of students and their needs and idiosyncrasies.  In my case, I had a sweet but chatty group of freshmen, so a lot of the management tools I had to use were based around talking out of turn.  This year, I have some personalities.  While they are still talkative, they are not quite as sweet about it.  There is a great deal more time spent dealing with negative interactions or trying to dissuade really inappropriate language and conversations. This is a very different challenge and requires a different skill set.

There's a flip side to this, of course.  In some cases, your following class benefits from your previous knowledge.  You'll find you can explain certain things way better if you were able to teach the same lessons both years.  However, many teachers I have known have had the most change in curriculum the first two years.  Even if you feel you have a strong set of lessons and activities, things happen.  Materials can run out, maybe your students are more or less advanced or maybe you just do not like how it addressed the standards previously and need to tweak it.  No matter what, changes are tough and you'll have a lot of them.

People Expect More of You
Especially if you don't change schools, you have proven that you can be a contributing part of the community.  Mainly, you survived.  And in some cases, this means you will find yourself in a leadership position, whether you feel ready or not.  In some ways, this can be fantastic.  You can really see how a school works and gain some great experience.  In some ways, this can be exhausting.  Seeing how a school works makes you realize how many moving parts there really are.  It makes your really respect all the administration do.

Also, expectations of abilities of teachers increases greatly.  I relate it to how the expectations jump for students from middle school to high school, even if they really don't mature that much over the summer.  You will be expected to be just better overall, and in many ways, you will be.  You'll find tricks to grade more efficiently, you'll get better at doing things on time, you'll be better about contacting families and managing a classroom, but you by no means will be perfect or meet the expectations of others sometimes.

People also expect you to know more things.  I have now been part of a few research projects, so if you need a good interview, you know who to look for.  Answer:  it may not be me.  While I do have some knowledge, it's very narrow and specific.  And yet, people love to study second year teachers.  Maybe it's a sophomore situation.  You are just starting to know how much you don't know.

You Expect More of You
I am my own hardest critic.  Whenever I have observations or evaluations, I see everything going wrong in the space and none of what is going right.  I tell myself that these things that are happening should not be issues any more.  My brain says "YOU HAVE DONE THIS BE PERFECT" and yet, I can't.  There's only so much 'can' in my body and sometimes, I run out.  I think this leads well into the fact that I have way less patience now with students and with myself.

You Have Way Less Patience
Yeah, remember how tired you were last year?  Multiply that by two.  You will have all of the baggage of prior students as well as current and almost no way to handle it constructively.  Ok, I'm exaggerating, but that's what it feels like a lot of the time.  I have not learned how to let some things slide, or I feel bad because I am letting more slide or mad because I take work home mentally and physically.  I feel like I had this youthful exuberance last year like YAY I'M A REAL TEACHER and now I sometimes just feel old and frustrated.  I'm also a bit of an idiot and made like three major life changing decisions in the span of the last six months (marriage, moving, job) and so I am really, really in my bones tired.  I don't know if anyone but my dad and my fiance really can see how tired I am.  I think I thought it would go away this year, and in some ways it has been less severe, but then I had to go and add on more stuff to do.  So this may be less about being a second year teacher, and more about just being me.

While all of this looks like a bunch of sadness and complaining, I do think I have improved but I just needed to vent.  I think I just needed this moment.  Positives to follow.
Tweets by @tomatopolish