February 2009


I said before student teaching started that my goal would be to blog every day of my student teaching. It is becoming more apparent to me that this is an ambitious but probably somewhat unrealistic goal for me, at least right now.

Lots of things have happened lately that I could write about and probably should write about, but I’m starting to feel guilty about my use of time. I have less than a week to finish grading all of these research papers, and progress is far too slow. I have a long weekend ahead to work, but I’m fairly certain that I can’t depend on that. Furthermore, the only times I seem to get anything written are times like these, late at night when I really should be sleeping. This bad habit of staying up too late trying to work is partially responsible for this sickness that I have been struggling with for a few days. (The real reason is that my oldest son brought it home from school and infected all of us, but my body is usually better at fighting off these ailments.)

So I’m just going to come clean about the matter – I will continue to attempt this blogging-every-day deal, but I’m not going to hold myself to it so stringently that I can’t get my real work done. Maybe in a week or so, I can re-evaluate, but I’ll let things happen as they will.

Now, rest awaits the weary.

The worst thing about teaching, in my opinion, is the fact that you very rarely get a chance to take a breather and reflect back on what you have just done. The reality is that you always have to be thinking ahead to the next thing, and so, in lieu of vacations or breaks, the job of a teacher is never done.

And when you get behind, you’re almost perpetually playing catch-up.

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Another mixed bag today, of which I am most frustrated with my continued delaying of the inevitable.

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About all I can get out now is that I’m exhausted, physically somewhat but moreso emotionally. I hit so many brick walls today and came out on top only slightly – call it a series of Pyrrhic victories, if you will.

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This will be brief: I’m trying to play catch-up from a day I would like to strike from the record.

Yesterday was a little chaotic for me. My co-op was gone on a trip, and so I was teaching under a very capable substitute teacher. It went better than it could have but not as well as I would have liked.

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Another week is past, and now I’ve completed six weeks of student teaching. I have learned a great deal so far, but it’s clear that I have a great deal left to learn about this profession I have chosen.

For one, I still am working on my organization and planning, which can be effective but tends to be very scattered and, well, unorganized. I know what I want to get at, but how I do it is the hard part. I think I’ve been fairly consistent in my instruction, but there are obvious deficiencies in my planning technique. Part of it is time spent doing it, and I need to remedy that sooner rather than later.

I also am still struggling to keep myself moving forward with classroom management, and some of the things I’ve been doing (like neglecting to watch students carefully who should be working independently) are practically sophomoric. Yet again, I know better than that – why am I not getting it?

The seniors started turning in research papers today; I have eight of them now to try and grade over the long weekend, along with the aphorism books that the juniors turned in the beginning of last week. Those have been my focus, since they need to be nailed out quickly to make way for the much more tedious research papers.

As usual, my students are teaching me things that I sorely needed to be reminded of at this stage. Their aphorism books – compilations (either as a book, video, or Power Point) of 15 aphorisms, each accompanied with a graphical illustration and brief explanation of the quote – have on the whole been very well-done, demonstrating a significant amount of time and effort. Some of their explanations and comments, additionally, have been thoughtful and sophisticated, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

Some of these aphorisms remind me of my own deficiencies, but more than that, they remind me that there is a way to end the cycle. For instance, one of the quotes that particularly stood out to me was:

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
-Ben Franklin

There’s no question that this quote is incredibly applicable to me, and I need to remember this – so much so that I’ve already made a cover sheet with it to go on the front of my planning binder. (Yes, I really do need that much of a reminder.)

As I said to my seniors today, everything done in the classroom is a learning experience for a teacher (or, as I should have added, at least it should be), and these projects have reminded me of the attitude I should have toward learning and my own planning. If I ever forget that, then I need to move it on down the line.

I hope that inspiration can carry me through the weekend. There are great things ahead, I think, and I need to make sure that the little details, all of those things I should plan for, don’t bring down the house of cards that is already a bit unstable. I think it can work – now let’s see it happen.

You know, there are really some things that you can’t ever be fully prepared for. When I got married, I understood cognitively what people were telling me about how different and difficult it can be to get adjusted to, but it didn’t help after the wedding when I was confronted with the reality of the situation. Similar was my experience becoming a father, and parenthood continues to surprise and challenge me daily.

Teaching is exactly the same way. I’ve known for a while that being a teacher is hard – and that the whole idea that “Those who can’t, teach” is a load of crap – and I’ve known that it’s something I really want to do, but being a teacher is another deal entirely. There is just so much stuff to get a hold on, and I’m afraid that I’m not fully doing it. My co-op really is being nice about it – firm, to be sure, but very nice. I really feel like I’m failing miserably, and no amount of reassuring me that “You’re not supposed to have a handle on this yet” is going to make me fine with that. Maybe it’s a little of wanting things to come naturally, maybe a little that I’m a perfectionist, but probably the main reason is that I feel like I’m letting students down, and I don’t really buy that my inexperience rationalizes that.

Am I being too hard on myself? Almost certainly, but I imagine it’s a futile task to tell me that. What I have right now is sort of an irrational fear that I will simply fail at this whole teaching thing, despite being so passionate about it and so convinced that I have the abilities to help me work everything out. Part of it is that I fear that I will know what I should do and simply be unable to do it, which would be far worse than simply not knowing what to do – that can be learned.

So I’m trying to buckle down a little. I have research papers starting to come in and a large project to finish grading before those come in with force on Tuesday, and I also have to plan ahead for at least a week of instruction so I’m not spending a whole lot of time each night on planning that I could devote to grading those papers. It’s a good thing it’s a three day weekend, most definitely.

Additionally, I’m trying to structure my planning a little more strictly, even to the point of working out specific lesson objectives (which no one is requiring me to do at this point except for days I’m observed by my university supervisor) and spelling out my set inductions for each lesson. This does seem a little bit arduous, and certainly I griped enough about jumping through that hoop for my education courses, but I’ve decided to try the method and see if it works for me. Something needs to work, and I’m willing to take a stab at whatever seems to make sense.

Tomorrow is fortunately a half-day, so I don’t have as much to teach tomorrow, but I must take advantage of this time.

I do hope this fear is unfounded. But whatever it takes, I will not let this become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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