I have been teaching now for over a decade, and I am slowly approaching my 10,000 hours. I have easily already surpassed 10,000 hours, if you count all the prepping, planning and marking. So I generally feel that at this point I have a pretty good handle on the classroom. So it bruises my ego a bit to say that I have a class that is challenging my abilities as a teacher. In fact, I walked into a teacher workroom to loudly declare “I feel like a new practice teacher”! I have a group of students that struggle with impulse control, focus in class and situational awareness. This has kept me on my toes, as there are lessons that I have successfully run for years that have gone up in flames this time around. It has forced me to self-assess how I am running a class period and re-think how I deliver my curriculum.
The one thing that has helped me through is by reaching out for ideas and support from colleagues. When I was a newer teacher, I used to think that it was a sign of weakness if I admitted things weren’t going well in my class. As a result, I probably vented at home to my partner more than I should have and didn’t seek advice and support in school as much as I could have. This time around, I have reached out to other teachers that teach some students, sought out strategies from the Spec. Ed department, and yes, vented to other teachers when it wasn’t going well (every other day or so, thanks Jamie).
Using advice from colleagues, rethinking curriculum delivery, working hard to really understand the learners in my class and keeping a firm hold on maintaining the community building in the classroom have all helped turn things around. I celebrate the little wins when I can, and the moments of connection I can make with students. Today, I applied a strategy given to me by my colleague (thanks Mitch!) and it worked: give students an opportunity to be active FIRST, get out of the class for something, then return to class and tackle one task. So we did just that, we took advantage of a nice sunrise (there are benefits to having a photography class first period in the day!) and ran outside with our cameras to capture the orange-pink sky and the epic clouds. Coming back together, we all learned a new creative edit in Photoshop, keeping lockstep with each other and helping everyone to stay at the same pace. We left with the whole class learning a new technique that they didn’t before and all students were on an even playing field. They all “got it”. I left the period with a little bounce in my step, thankful for the small victories.