Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Setting the Bar Too High

I think I'm a good teacher. I feel pretty confident in that statement. But I'm not the teacher I want to be most of the time. It's too hard, I'm too lazy, whatever.

But for the past two days I've been that teacher. And I'm exhausted.

For the past week my first graders have been forming questions about ladybugs, researching to find the answers and planning a book for us to write together. Yesterday we spent our whole morning (Mondays are a shorter day for us) taking what we had planned and writing it on large paper for our book. It was done in small groups and I spent the entire time moving from one group to the next to encourage, help, redirect, whatever was needed. By the time they went to lunch I was wiped. In the afternoon they continued to work on these pages straight through our free choice play time up until dismissal. No one even complained when they realized there had been no free choice.

This morning we looked through yesterday's efforts and our research on non-fiction texts and worked to create a cover, title page, table of contents, glossary, and about the author page. They worked on them this morning and some more this afternoon and some still need a bit more time tomorrow. Again, I wandered from group to group supporting in whatever way was needed. Their book is going to be amazing (pictures to come soon).

During free choice I worked one-on-one with kids to be sure they understood something that seemed complicated to many during our calendar time.

During math I again worked one-on-one with kids to assess their understanding of coins (our grade level's current common assessment). We wrapped up our day by beginning to organize the pictures they took of shapes for our movie.

Plus, while my class was at PE I met with a former student, now a third grader, that I mentor once a week.

Being the teacher I want to be requires that I am 'on' 100% of the time. I don't think that's humanly possible.


Tom Hoffman said...

One of the most basic differences between the US and higher performing countries is that the teachers in the other countries have more prep time and less time in contact with kids.

A pretty straightforward reform that somehow is not on the table.

Teacher Mum said...

Teaching is definitely not for the faint hearted. We work damn hard for our money.
And people who are not teachers can't understand why we do so much work out of school hours or during school holidays.
Can't wait to see your bug book.

Anonymous said...

Boy can I relate to this! No elation like those good days, no guilt trips like the self-imposed ones on "off" days, but most days were a 75% on the perfect-teacher-meter. Left me with some energy for planning and meetings after school, but perpetually a little bummed that my students needed so much and I probably missed an opportunity every hour to reach them.

Angela said...

What a great post, Jenny. I think we all have different levels of being "on" and only some of those levels are sustainable over time. It's such a tough balance. Sometimes we not only expect ourselves to be "on" every moment of every single day, but we expect the same of the kids.

Very thought-provoking. Let me keep ruminating on this one. :-)

Jenny said...

Tom, It amazes me that such a reform is never even discussed. Being a good teacher, at least by my definition, requires about as much time planning/reflecting per lesson as the length of the lesson. That's not reasonably possible at the moment.

Teacher Mum, I would love to see the realities of a teacher's day truly explained to the general public in some way.

Anonymous, It's so easy to see those missed opportunities each day. I know I can't see all the things that went beautifully (although I do see some)and it would be nice to have a better balance there.

Angela, Your point about our expectations for the kids is a really good one. I do try to step back and analyze what I'm asking of the kids. Often when I reflect on it I realize that I wouldn't have the stamina or the interest or whatever to do what I've asked. Being 'on' is tough. At least I've chosen this job, the kids are just stuck there.

Rebecca said...

I wish I had a lot more time to reflect on my teaching...there's simply not enough of it.