REFLECTION ON GROWTH
While I have reflected a great deal on what this year has meant to me throughout my teaching journals, lesson reflections, various papers, and moments of change in the classroom, I wanted to an excerpt from one of my first teaching journals, and my final teaching journal of the year. The teaching journal is a reflective process I explain in full in my “Reflection on Collegial Learning” section, but this last journal focuses on my growth throughout the entire year. “I cannot believe how little responsibility I have had in my life up to now, and how much more responsibility I am being placed with every day.” Isaac Santner, September 23rd, 2012- fourth teaching journal.
I wrote this during the end of my first month of teaching. My first month was extremely eye-opening. As much as I prepared for this year, as much as I read the textbook furiously over the summer, as much as I read books on classroom management, and as much as I reflected on what I wanted my teaching philosophy to really be, I never could have understood the types of responsibilities, real responsibilities, that teachers have to live up to every day. As I learned more about this responsibility this year, and as I took that responsibility up onto my shoulders, my growth as a teacher has progressed tremendously.
This year I have encountered a great deal of “firsts”, professionally and personally. I saw my first successes with teaching, and had some of my first real proud moments as a professional- something which I cannot say I have experienced in any other job. I will certainly never forget the moment I saw Luis Castro receive an award for his poetry- an award that surprised his parents, his teachers, himself, and me. I had my first real breakdowns because of work that I faced- and the first time I had to just go work regardless of how I was feeling personally. I saw my first lesson go down in flames (and many more after that) and I saw my first lesson really succeed because of original planning and effective implementation.
After working so hard for so long, and looking the end right in the face, I believe that this program has given me some really strong skills that I will take into my next job, and whatever profession I go into, will really bolster my confidence and my self-awareness. After subbing for five straight hours and feeling somewhat okay, I realized that in the beginning of the year I would just not have been able to do that at all. In fact, my subbing is where I really see a great deal of growth. I believe that your ability to sub effectively, to implement a lesson that you are unaware of, and to control a classroom in an unfamiliar situation is one of the hardest things to do, at least at Claremont. Running an effective classroom under these circumstances has been a huge challenge, and I believe it reflects directly on my inner strength as a teacher- will I be able to control a situation, and win over students through determination, cunning, and strength? I take every subbing opportunity as a challenge, one that I don’t always step up to, but one I feel more comfortable in.
I also believe I have grown a great deal in my ability to relate to students in a mature and safe way. I know this seems like it could come second nature, but with such a range of students, it has been hard to always know exactly where I fall in the Claremont “cultural landscape.” One thing that has really helped me understand my role and place has been sitting in on Ms. Roach’s pull out English class every day. I am able to be an adult in the classroom, help when needed, be the first choice of sub, and interact with a set of students who I have no curricular responsibilities over, but do have personal relationships and interest in their education. They are willing to let me help them learn, and I feel in many ways most comfortable with these students. I almost wonder if that is what student teaching traditionally feels like. It has certainly helped me find my “school voice” and experiment unhindered by curricular responsibilities. These students feel very comfortable with me yet still see me as an authority figure, something I have strived to find in other classes I teach.
I have also grown in my ability to recognize when students are not working due to my own negligence, or inability, or error, and when they are not working because of their own issues, and how to control my response as such. For example, today almost every seventh grader was able to work productively for some period of time, except for Eli and Mikael. Instead of getting frustrated with those students in particular, or in my own inability to prescribe powerful learning, I was able to talk to them productively to see what exactly was going on. It turns out, Mikael was simply extremely hungry, something I would not have been able to figure out at the beginning of the year because I would not have stopped to think about what else might be happening for the students besides my classroom.
I have also learned to accept that every student is making a choice to learn from me, or to not learn from me. I can do everything in my power to work with a student, but until I build a relationship with each individual student that shows them that I am an acceptable instructor and adult in their life, any amount of planning will be ineffective. This has been most apparent with Abdiel- who I have had varying degrees of zero success with until three weeks ago, when a chess game and a personal conversation really turned things around. I need to focus my next year of teaching on building these relationships first and foremost, and through an experience of my own design, one that I think deeply on and build based on experiences this year.
Personally, this year has been huge for my professionalism. I simply cannot call out, cannot create lazy lesson plans, and must follow through with my work. When I have, it has been very apparent, and is easily identified by not just adults around me, but students. That is certainly the worst- when students know that they don’t need to do something in your class because it is simply not a powerful experience. In that way, I have come to understand just how important the concept of powerful learning is- in a school-wide setting, so students feel like the work they are doing is important, and particularly in my own classroom.
I will need to take so much of this year into my next job, and hopefully into my career. While I do not plan on teaching in a traditional classroom right away, I have seen firsthand how powerful learning can affect a student, and I have felt how it feels to help be a part of administrating this powerful learning. I have become a far more responsible adult.