When I think back to my first few years of teaching I can remember constantly telling my students what to do each step of the way. I remember frequently having to stop teaching to redirect students. I remember students rushing through work to get finished and then having nothing to do. I remember looking at the clock thinking, what are we going to do now. And, I remember thinking that this was not the way I had envisioned my classroom to be operating but I just wasn't sure what to do.
Over time, I was lucky to have had the benefit of participating in some amazing professional development that helped me refine my practice. I became a Literacy Coach and found that many teachers struggled with the same things I did early on. Over the years, I have found myself having similar conversations with many frustrated, stressed out teachers. Often times the most well-intentioned, hardworking teachers feel like all of their hard work is getting them and their students nowhere. They are stuck in a cycle of telling students what to do and how to do things and yet the students never seem to take ownership. Have you been there? I have. Are you one of those frustrated teachers?
So I think it’s about time to share my advice with anyone who would like to take it.
1. Hit the Reset Button
The beautiful thing about this time of year is that you have the chance to “hit the reset” button. Take some time to think about what drives you crazy in your classroom or what annoys you! Then, envision that time of day operating perfectly. Picture it. Hear it. Feel it. When you go back to school make it happen. It’s okay to change a routine, it’s okay to shuffle your daily schedule around. Tell your students what you are doing, why you are doing it and let them play a part in setting the expectations!
2. Work Smarter Not Harder
In my opinion, it should be against the law to do lesson plans more than a day or two in advance. Now, don’t panic! You need to have an idea of what you’re aiming for, what your goal is. But, the map for how to get there is created by your students. When you spend hours planning a week or two weeks worth of lessons you then feel emotionally attached to “getting through” them. Instead, have an idea of where your students are headed, take time each day to look at their work and decide where they need to go next.
Yes, this can seem scary at first, but trust me, you will feel so much more successful because your students will be more successful because you will be using their work to make instructional decisions!
3. Pick One Thing To Do Well and Do It Well
That’s right! Pick one thing and learn it, read about it, ask questions about it and make it something that you feel very confident about. No one, especially teachers in their first year or two, can feel completely confident with every aspect of teaching. So, own the fact that you don’t know everything and pick one thing that you want to learn as much as you can about. After you feel confident, then pick something else. Give yourself permission to be a learner!!
4. Ask For Help
If you are lucky enough to have an expert in your building then don’t be afraid to ASK FOR HELP!! Ask the teacher who has the best classroom management if you can sit in his room during your planning period and just see how things operate. Then try something you learned! After a few days, ask that same teacher to come to your room, watch you teach and provide you with some feedback. This is the best professional development you could ever receive!
You can pay now or pay later. I suggest paying now. Invest the time in refining your practice now and the payoff will be huge later! Then you won't need this...
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.