Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fresh Eyes on the Job

There are so many things flying around in my head, pushing and shoving, ready for me to write about them (including Language & Learning and ASCD12) but this made it to the front.

I am temporarily out of my classroom at the moment. An intern has taken over and is in control. Each day I go back in for a bit to teach a guided reading group but mostly I am elsewhere.

Tuesday was the first day I went in to work with my little group. These three boys have made minimal progress in reading this year and I often find our meetings painful. That wasn't true on Tuesday. I noticed all the things they are doing well as readers and celebrated with them. I was patient and thoughtful in my instruction and guidance. I had fun with them.

I wondered later what the difference was. It certainly wasn't that I was well rested after three days of jam-packing in two conferences. I was exhausted. I think the difference was that I didn't have to be 'on' all morning. Good teaching requires the teacher to be fully engaged and aware at all times. Not having to do that for the hour and a half before our guided reading group meant I was fresh and ready for them.

I felt the same way this morning. To renew my National Board Certification (should those all be capitalized or am I overdoing this?) I need to teach in an upper grade. I taught a math lesson on polygons to a fifth grade class and recorded it.

After watching the recording I may feel differently, but right now I would say I had a blast. Again, I think being able to really focus on this and not having to be in charge of everything else made it more relaxing, more fun, and pretty darn good instruction.

It is no surprise to me that teaching is hard and exhausting. I know that. But when you do it everyday it is just what you do, you don't tend to think a lot about it. Having the opportunity to do the teaching, but only a small piece of it, has proven to me the difficulty of the job. It also has me wondering how to find this fresh attitude, patience, and joy with the kids when I am back carrying the full load.

I also have to give this fifth grade teacher a ton of credit. She has created a community that is amazing with these kids. They are polite, engaged, excited, and able to really talk deeply with one other about their thinking. 

On a side note, years ago when I played the harp on a cruise ship, I knew that I had to be 'on' anytime I was in public areas. Everyone knew me as "Harpist Jennifer" because my picture was outside the main showroom. The difference then was that when I needed a break and didn't want to have to be in that mode I could just walk through a door into crew areas. There are not a lot of opportunities, time or space for crew areas in teaching.

1 comment:

luckeyfrog said...

I think for me, it's all about shaking things up. I have a great routine that works well, but any routine gets stagnant. Some days if I'm just not feeling it, I tell them that we're taking a break from reading and doing some math, or try to come up with a new and different activity. Or, I just fake it and be goofy until the real magic comes through. (The other day, I used the word KABLAMMO! when getting rid of a 'boring' word, and the kids got really into it. I wasn't feeling that into it, but faking it got their enthusiasm up, which helped me get mine up, too!)

It's tough, though. Sometimes after breaks I come back feeling so refreshed. It makes me want to try teaching in a year-round school!

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