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.
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