December: The End of A Term

The final school week of 2020 felt a bit like a scramble, an unleashing of whatever I could just to pass the finish line with a Christmas movie in hand (which now have become 3 overdue library DVDs sitting on my teacher's desk). "How has teaching been?" - "a rollercoaster ride" is an answer which clumps a plethora of emotions and stresses, ups and downs at high speeds but never a breath until the screeching halt that was Christmas break. I can't say it was all bad; and I am told regularly, "you're a first year teacher, it is supposed to be hard - you can't be so hard on yourself, but the fact that you are shows that you really care." 

I care - I definitely do. I have felt the weight of what it means to be a teacher, and even at my teaching placements throughout teacher's college - I was highly aware that though I was just a student teacher and I was learning, these were real souls I was teaching - this ain't no game. At the same time, I had to remind myself that the results aren't completely up to me and if a math lesson goes wrong, I haven't ruined their lives forever. But I believe my students deserve the best, and I try to give it my best, but when it doesn't turn out, it feels like I've disappointed them and let them down. 

Meanwhile, "giving my students my best" has somehow meant designing all my curriculum from scratch, down to the formatting of the handouts I make. I know there are plenty of resources and curriculums out there, and I find that as I read through them I think, "but I don't want to teach it this way" and go on my own way. That very well can stem from a place of pride, and I've come to the realization that (as a first year teacher) perhaps I don't know the best way to teach students (no duh). I need to learn to be okay with using other content, and going on teacherpayteachers if I need to. There is so much to teach, and instead of trying to do everything perfectly and as a result spreading myself too thin and potentially doing it all poorly, I should just focus on one thing at a time. Which by the way seems to be math right now - which I am really enjoying (besides the fractions/percents/decimals unit coming up). 

However, this whole idea of creating my own content has another side to it too. I find myself stuck between two worlds. Over the past few years, I have been learning about classical christian education (ex. Charlotte Mason), a pedagogy and philosophy unlike anything I was raised or trained in. To teach attentiveness, to teach for mastery, to cultivate virtues and biblical morals, to teach discipline, a love for learning, an appetite for what is good, true and beautiful. While that was not a comprehensive explanation of classical education, which I am still trying to get a handle on, I find myself seeking and trying to find ways to insert this pedagogy into my classroom instruction while teaching at a school that seeks to hold and progress with modern education (ex. project based learning, moving away from traditional grammar etc...). On one hand, I find myself tempted to hold classical education as "the right and better way to educate" and on the other, trying to remind myself that there are many valid and effective means of education. 

I feel stuck between the two worlds - trying to juggle a new pedagogy I believe in but still barely understand yet with the expectations and curriculums from the school I teach at. All the while trying to keep tabs on the 16 grasshoppers I am trying to hold in my hand and catching every new curveball being thrown my way be it report cards, parent teacher interviews or social emotional and academic needs. 

The two worlds just seem to be at such heads with one another. I don't intend to go rogue and do whatever I want, but should I just put the classical stuff aside and wait until the opportunity comes? Do I continue to wade through the mess and be pulled by both sides? What do I focus on first? 

I continue to find myself in this disoriented state as I try to plan for the next term. I decided to give in and purchase a literature guide for my novel study and plan to insert "classical methods" as they come - I really am having a hard time teaching literacy. I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. I think I also plan to press into developing my math curriculum more and work on how I can continue to engage and help my students develop deeper conceptual mathematical understanding. As for the other subjects... I just haven't gotten that far yet. 

I know the first year of teaching is supposed to be hard but I am tired. I am probably working upwards of 80 hours a week and while it's become a new norm and I don't dread the process of planning and being creative, teaching is a marathon and I've been sprinting. Not only that, but with looming doubts and questioning my adequacy at times - I sometimes really wonder if I am cut out for this job. My students probably deserve someone better and someone who knows what they are doing. What do I know, what do I have to offer and what am I supposed to do about it? Then again, I am reminded that we all start somewhere. You can't and you won't teach perfectly. That's something I'll just need to understand and accept but teaching is learning, it is adapting and revising, analyzing and reflecting; it can take an incredible toil but it also keep teaching interesting.
"Sometimes we feel like if we can't do it perfectly, we won't have success. The truth is, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing imperfectly. So go ahead and just do your best." // ANDREW PUDEWA

Teacher Reflections

- got through Term 1
- students are getting engaged and are enjoying math
- remembering a moment where we were working on geometry transformations and students and teacher were discovering new ways to move and transform shapes together - it was very exciting!
- incorporating outdoor education into my subjects

to improve
- not trying to reinvent the wheel and make everything from scratch
- addressing social-emotional needs and issues in the classroom
- upholding expectations and being consistent
- regaining my footing on being the Word regularly, as the term went on it became easier and easier to skip devotions and head out the door


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