Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring has Sprung

It is spring! (sort of)  Although the weather may not be cooperating, in the life of a school it is definitely spring.  Children know it, parents know it, and we as teachers definitely know it.  Springtime in schools is when we begin to think about next year.  What will I be teaching?  Who will be in my class?  Will I be in the same grade?  Will I have to start a new math curriculum—again?  I want to challenge you to also ask yourself this spring: “What can I do better next year?”

It is very easy to get stuck in a rut.  When we find something that works, we often stick to it, and move on to ‘fix’ something different that needs fixing.  We never revisit the first fix and it just becomes something we do because it works.

I recently visited a beginning teacher’s High School English class.  She had never taught the Great Gatsby before, but she told me she wasn’t at all concerned about beginning the unit.  Curiously, I wondered why she felt so confident about this book.  “Well I still have my notes from tenth grade.” She told me. 

You may be laughing--even outloud--at this naïve comment, but this new teacher is not alone.
Ever met a fifth grade teacher who is suddenly shifted to kindergarten because the numbers have shifted in the school?  Ever been handed a ‘brand new amazing’ curriculum in August and told that you need to teach it? 

We are often thrown into situations that we are ill prepared for, sometimes we know how little we know and sometimes we don’t.  The new teachers’ naïveté is humorous, but her situation is not unique.
So lets go back to those ruts I was talking about before.  I can picture this new teacher in five years. 
In one scenario she is still using her tenth grade notes to teach the Great Gatsby.  She is clinging to what she knows and what feels comfortable no matter the value.  I can see that fifth grade teacher who is now a kindergarten teacher still adapting her fifth grade routines and activities for her younger version of her former students.   

The next scenario shows a fifth year teacher who has reevaluated the way she teaches different units.  She has a method and a philosophy that she applies to every book she has her students read.  She is ready to tackle any new piece of literature that may come her way because teaching literature is an art form.  The kindergarten teacher has a shelf filled with literature on early childhood education.  She has an early childhood guru who she often turns to with new ideas she has been wondering about. 

So here we sit at the beginning of Spring, counting the days until summer vacation.  We are all thinking about next year and what new challenges it will bring.  I want to challenge you to take this opportunity to also think about how you are going to tackle these new obstacles in a strategic and proactive manner so that next year you will be able to answer the question

“What am I doing better this year?”

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