In the midst of these first-year struggles (the sort of growing pains that I think most teachers have to deal with), I have learned to look wherever I can for little celebrations. It’s sometimes difficult, but I can find them. Today’s was especially great for me.
Every so often, I give students the opportunity to provide feedback to me about how the class is going, what they find that is positive (I make sure to ask them explicitly for this), and any possible improvements that could be made. (This is something I picked up from my student teaching co-op, who did this periodically as well. It’s a fabulous idea, especially given how important it is for teachers to be active learners.) Every time I’ve done this, it has been a positive experience, even when I felt that I had to discount the opinions of my students as so much complaining.
The awesome thing about this, besides the fact that you get valuable information about the progress of students, is that when the comments are good, they are really good. Or so I’ve found.
I have had the advantage, of course, of having a low bar to jump over with the previous teacher, and a number of comments referred back to how much more they have learned with me in six weeks or so than they learned all last year. I don’t consider those to be incredibly complimentary – they just mean that I’m doing what teachers are supposed to do: teach. But the victory comes for me in the sincere comments, like
I love your teaching style.
In my opinion you are doing an excellent job.
Other than [giving a little too much work] you are a very good teacher and we have learned alot [sic] already.
You’ve helped me relize [sic] how good I can write; if I would stop analyzing it [sic]. This has been one of the best English classes I have had in high school.
I think that with helping us out with writing it makes us a better person in general. [This comment floored me!]
I don’t think that there is anything that could be changed. I like the class exactly like it is now. I think that this class is going in the right direction. Frankly, I believe that you are doing a very good job.
Comments like these move me and help counter that nagging fear in me that keeps saying, You aren’t succeeding, and you’re not nearly as good at this as you think. Granted, it’s only one class, and it’s probably the class I feel the best about, but I have to be glad for something. It just means that I need to keep my efforts up in this class, where I don’t have very many issues with classroom management or anything like that, and to push further ahead with my other courses. If I can get comments like these from my other classes by the time the semester rolls around, then I will know that I’m in the right direction.
For now, I’m just going to wallow in the moment. This is a moment that teachers live for.