At the risk of sounding a bit arrogant, I have long had many natural abilities, especially when it comes to school. I remember floating by so many times in school because the work was so easy, and I almost prided myself on not having to work hard while my classmates struggled with the material and had to exert a great deal more effort than I did. As a result, I didn’t excel in high school nearly as much as I could have, even in subjects that I have somewhat of an affinity for (English and math – I like language and numbers).
I’ve gotten over that in many ways, and I’ve learned the joys of effort and the payoff in satisfaction with work well done. But I fear that my inclination to trust that part of me that says, “Work? Pshaw, you could do this with your eyes closed,” is still there under the surface, and it’s starting to edge its way into my teaching.
I say “edge” because I do put a lot of effort into my teaching, but I find that I am often doing the bare minimum – sometimes out of pure frustration and an inability to focus in on what I need to think about – in order to get through my lessons. This is especially true of my eighth grade class, which requires virtually no higher order thinking skills (it’s 95% grammar and maybe 5% writing), and my seniors, who I just don’t know how to handle because teaching research is just so tricky. We’re almost done with that, fortunately, and I have some good things in store for our unit on 1984, but it’s disconcerting to me that I’m slipping into bad habits of my youth.
That’s not to say that I haven’t made some progress. Some things are working, and I am in fact able to work with instruction sometimes in ways that work despite a lack of planning (or at least structured planning). Some of my lesson plans have been (as my co-op put it) somewhat nebulous and far too open-ended, and I know that part of my problem is that I’m too focused on what is happening now: I need to be thinking about the next day, but I should be thinking about the day after, and the day after that, and the next week, and the next assessment, and the next unit…and so forth. Teaching is very difficult in that regard; there’s virtually no time to sit back and breathe a sigh of relief when something has been accomplished because you have to keep moving on to something new.
So I’m working to get caught up and think ahead. I have to devote more time to planning and preparation, especially since grading the research papers will consume my life starting on Tuesday. (About 50 papers to grade at approximately 45 minutes each? You do the math on that one.) I’m not there yet, but it’s coming.
But whatever happens, I need to lean on the work that I have done to make quality lessons that bring about authentic learning, not on my own abilities – not only will everything I do fit more securely into a larger framework, but I won’t be stuck relying on skills that have not yet been developed by years of experience. If I can get that worked out, then I will have really considered this progress.