I have officially survived both my first “year” in Puerto Rico, and my first year of teaching. In the yearbook, the students voted me the teacher with the “most creative classroom activities.” As someone who used to fear I didn’t have enough creativity to be an engaging teacher, I’m really really excited about this!
So here are a few of the things I’ve learned about myself and about teaching during the school year:
-My classroom management mantra is “CONSTANT VIGILENCE!” I’ve learned that classroom management is less about a secret trick to instilling fear and respect in students, and more about diligence, consistency, and a will to follow through. Students are much more likely to stop talking if I’m standing next to them quietly saying, “Be quiet, please,” than if I’m sitting at my desk and yelling across the room, “Billy! Be quiet!!” I can’t expect them to have the energy to obey me if I don’t even have the energy to circulate the room.
-Everyone (me included) is happier if I assign more short, in-class activities than assignments that need to be completed at home. Yes, there’s something to be said for developing responsibility. But we’re also in middle school here, not high school or college. They don’t need homework every night.
-Plagiarism can’t be escaped. Even when you think you’ve got the best students in the world, a few in the group will get lazy and try to copy (from the internet, from their friends, whatever). Sometimes they know what they’re doing is wrong, and sometimes they seem to honestly not get why it’s a problem.
-I was never taught an effective method of teaching grammar. By this I mean, teaching grammar in an authentic way, rather than drilling into students, “this is a verb. This is a preposition. This is how the two work together.” I don’t believe in drilling; I don’t think it’s easy for students to make the connection between their worksheet and exercises and their actual writing. However, I’ve learned this year that that doesn’t mean I can cut out grammar instruction; there are a lot of problems in my students’ writing that I want to work to fix. So I need to educate myself and find a way to teach grammar effectively.
-Sometimes it’s okay to take a night off. I’m kind of a grading wizard; it’s surprising if I don’t have tests or projects ready to pass back the next class after they’ve been turned in. Staying on top of the grading most of the time means I can afford to come home and just stop working some nights. It’s a reward I’ve earned, and I need to remember it.
And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that I can do this. I finished my first year of teaching, and my students and I still like each other. I’m excited to begin the next year (though of course I’m looking forward to the summer). And I know that each of my students learned from me. What more can I ask, really?
|The student artwork behind my desk.|
|I had to smile at this student addition to the brand name in|