Sunday, March 4, 2012


One of the things I think about sometimes is how much learning you do when you teach in different places. Truly, circumstances necessitate adaptation. If I did not move between schools, I think that I might have stagnated after a few years.

In my first school, I learned...

* write scaffolded lesson plans in lieu of lecturing, because I didn't command enough respect from my first-year students for even 15 minutes at a time to complete a mini lesson.

* give up control of my lesson-planning process and to compromise with another partner with whom I shared co-planned lessons. Some days this was really great, and other days the results were awful. In either case, we learned to compromise, to communicate, and to reflect on how we can improve. It also forced me, in many cases, to step beyond my comfort zone and to try out someone else's lesson format (which in the long run, was good for me).

* ...that what we do makes a difference. What I saw was the transformation of inner-city children between grades 8 and 10, between the first time I taught them and when I taught them again. I learned that the greatest gift I can give a child is persistence, because with that they will work through everything.

* not rely on textbooks. We didn't have/believe in textbooks. I learned to read standards and state exams and to turn them into objective outlines, pacing guides, project brainstorms, and ultimately teaching material. I learned to think based on my intuition and not based on something that is already written in front of me, which even now is how I begin every unit. I find that I create things that are better suited for my students when I start working in a vaccuum and only afterwards look into supplemental resources.

* admire other teachers' work. The school was so amazing and so hands-on, that if you are humble enough to pop into classes, learning opportunity was everywhere. There are things that I had only heard about or seen briefly at that school that I have since adopted for my own classes.

At my second school, I learned...

* teach with the freedom of having no rigid written curriculum and no standardized test pressure. In the lack of those two things, there is limitless possibility.

* switch between using and not using textbooks, depending on how good I think the written material is. What freedom to have!

* ask to borrow resources and to look into dusty resources on the shelves that no one has used in years. I learned to network with other people (science teachers, librarians, resource assistants) to help me write lessons and to investigate resources for me.

* utilize the amazing year-round weather to take my students outside for outdoors lessons.

* write GeoGebra-based investigations to take advantage of the easily accessible computer lab.

* communicate with all parents weekly over email.

I am now at my third school. This school is fast-paced and my colleagues are vastly more experienced than me in their areas of expertise. One of the challenges that I face is how to carve out my own space for effective teaching without overstepping the pacing and assessment framework that we all share. One of the things that I find that has benefited me the most in this new environment is to be able/comfortable enough to reach out and ask tons of questions, which is something that I have learned from my earlier schools. It has already forged some amazing working relationships with some of my colleagues, and helped ensure that this transition into a new curriculum was as smooth as can be.

I am grateful for my opportunities, and I can only hope that this road will always lead to greater challenges and greater rewards!

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