Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lessons I've learned and the person I strive to be

My last post detailed what I will do differently as a teacher next year given the lessons that I have learned this year. This blog is along those same lines; however, here I will discuss what I will do differently to enrich myself as person. One of the problems I encountered during my first year of teaching is that I couldn't seem to separate my work life and my personal life. I found myself bringing home papers to correct, spending more time with my school work than Andrea, and when I wasn't physicallly working on school work, I would be worrying about it. It consumed every aspect of my life. It even became the focus of my dreams...or should I say nightmares.

This year I will try to separate my two lives more; although because Andrea is moving across the country, I guess I don't have much incentive anymore. Well, I suppose my mental health should count for something. So here is my plan to live an enriching life OUTSIDE of school.

1.) Only work at school. I will not bring work home even if I have to stay late.

2.) Get more involved with my community. Next year I will be volunteering at St. Jude's research hospital. Since I was little, I have been very excited about their mission. Now that I find myself living 15 minutes away, I simply can't pass up this opportunity.

3.) Plan my wedding from 750 miles away. Not exactly the easiest feat but if Kate and Lee can do it, Andrea and I can do it too.

4.) Go running more often! It has been so difficult this past year to find time to go running, something I love to do. This year, I will be coaching cross country so there will be some time for that, but I want to continue running throughout the year on account of such mild winters.

5.) Read more. Despite what Andrea thinks, I really enjoy reading. I just don't have time to read 5 books a week like her. I couldn't be more excited that she will be back in her literary realm at the University of Michigan's MFA program. At Michigan, I hope she will find a supportive community of writers who are just as obsessed with creating the perfect story as she is. We have this deal in which I am able to be the FIRST to read any completed work of hers, and in light of the fact that she'll be surrounded with creativity and support, I have a feeling I'll be able to accomplish my goal of reading more often quite easily.

Well, that's just the start of some of the steps I hope to take this year to preserve my sanity. I've come to find that many people think teaching is the perfect job with the perfect hours. 8-3:30 and summers off. What is better than that? What idiots! Teaching for me is like 2 full time jobs! From 4:30 in the morning until about 9:30 at night! I rarely get a break. Well, next year my focus will be to win back my life.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lessons I've learned and the teacher I strive to be

After one year of teaching under my belt, I have come to several realizations. First of all, I think I have learned more than my students this year. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing but it's a truth that I can't deny. Second, if you slack on your classroom management plan even for only a couple of weeks, you're going to pay for it the rest of the year. Third, I need to overhaul quite a few aspects of my teaching strategies for next year. The following is a description of what I want and need to do better next year.

1.) Become a better classroom manager. My classroom management plan was fairly strong this year and my consequences and rewards seemed to work well...when I used them. It's funny, my students always reminded me when I should be given them rewards for a job well done but they never once reminded me that I should enforce the consequences just as much as the rewards. Go figure. Next year I will probably stick to a similar classroom management plan but you can bet that I'm going to hit the ground running with it come August. After seeing the effects of a loosely enforced management plan, I'd be a fool to let any deviation from a rule or procedure occur in my classroom. While I hate to say this, I'm going to be a lot more strict than I was last year. Unforunatley, my students interpret strict as mean. No matter how you look at it, I'm going to have to really push management next year.

2.) Build more bridges between Physical Science lessons and the real world. I was overwhelmed this year with student apathy. No matter how excited I was about the subject matter, no matter how flashy the demonstration was, no matter how unique the lab was, my students showed little to no interest in the course. I NEED to remedy this next year. I want them to look at Physical Science with the same passion that I see it...well, at least half the passion. I think I can do this by helping them see how they use Physcial Science every day without knowing it. For example, we use magnets in everything from speakers to hair dryers. Furthermore, I still want to do more labs. Less notes, more inquiry. I felt that I stressed too much memorization this year. Science isn't about memorization; well, at least the majority of science. It's about discovery. Yes...more discovery.

3.) I want to STOP dressing so professionally. Every day this year (except for some Fridays) I wore slacks, a dress shirt and a tie. I originally thought that it was the only way that I could distinguish my baby face from one of the students, but now that most students know who I am I will NOT dress up every day. Dressing up professionally is great for many professions but I don't think it is right for my personality, my age, or my teaching strategy. Without going into how I almost set my tie on fire with a bunsen burner during the first semester, I think that my professional get-up really alienated me from my students. I felt as though they thought I was trying to elevate my importance to a level it shouldn't be at. What's more is that I think I was the only teacher who ever wore a tie. My studetns said I looked more like a business man than a teacher.

4.) Get more involved in my students lives outside of school. I made an interesting progression throughout this past year. At the beginning of the year, I would do everything in my power to avoid seeing my students out in public. I thought that they saw enough of me (and I saw enough of them) at school that any further encounters would just be awkward and overkill; however, as the first semester faded into the second, I found that when I did encounter a student outside of school, it was usually a positive encounter which strengthened our bond. Maybe they saw that I was a real person just like them, something I think got lost during the school hours on account of my professional attire. I plan on connecting with some of these students through coaching. I have accepted the head coaching position for both the boys and girls cross country teams next year. Now that sounds misleading; there aren't that many individuals going out for it...yet. I plan on changing that.

Overall, next year I want to love my job even more. I don't just want to make waking up bearable but a joy. I want to be excited to go to school, to see my students and to share my passion for Physical and Environmental Science. I know that I won't be doing this forever. Next year is my last chance to create a lasting impression on the kids of Mississippi. After next year, I'll just be a memory for them. The question is, what kind of memory will I be? Maybe I won't be their favorite teacher, but perhaps if I play my cards right they will leave my class knowing that someone cared deeply about them and their education.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring Break

Well spring break has been over for just about 2 weeks now and I find that I miss it already. I had so much fun over the break that it made coming back to school feel like my own personal hell. Don't get me wrong, I love to teach. It's probably one of the best creative outlets of any profession and you get to have fun and joke around while doing it! The problem is that I don't like being a disciplinarian. I've said this before and I feel as though it's water under the bridge, but I feel like I'm baby-sitting sometimes and that’s what makes getting up in the morning so difficult.

Well, enough of that. There is no point in complaining. You just have to hope that each day will bring less disruption and more learning. Back to spring break. My fiancé and I went to Chattanooga, TN to visit Lookout Mountain. Lookout Mountain is just west of the Smokey Mountain National Park. Our first stop was Inclined Railway, the railcar with the steepest grade tracks in the entire world. We literally went up the mountain at a 70 degree angle during the steepest leg of the ride. Once there, it wasn't too exciting. I bet the view would have been fantastic if it hadn't been foggy. Still, it was a nice ride up and down the mountain.

Next we visited Rock City which isn't really a city at all. It's just a plot of land that some horticulturalist (I think) donated to the state. Ok, a little heads up. My facts may be really skewed here. I'm trying to do this from memory and it's so hard to pay attention to those boring tour guides when there is so much to see and do. Anyway, my fiancé and I really got a kick out of Rock City. It was basically just a path that wound through caverns and through a wide variety of flora. We did get to see an incredibly view (by this point, the fog had cleared) and 7 states. The park claims you can see 7 states from a vantage point high up on a mountain side but this is complete B.S. How can one see South Carolina and North Carolina from Tennessee? That's right you can't, but for some odd reason I fell for it when I was reading the brochure.

Finally we saw my favorite attraction, Ruby Falls. I had always seen billboards for Ruby Falls as a child when my family would take road trips to South Carolina but I never thought I'd ever get there. It's amazing and I would definitely recommend it to any non claustrophobic adventure seeker. It involves and elevator ride 280 feet below ground and a tour through winding caverns with several breath-taking geological masterpieces. The tour culminates with the amazing Ruby Falls, a huge water fall in the middle of the cave. What's crazy is that nobody knows where the water that feeds Ruby Falls actually comes from.

Our break was a blast and if any teacher corps member is looking for a quick weekend trip, I highly recommend heading to Lookout Mountain just outside of Chattanooga.