Tomorrow begins the first day of the second semester. All of my students will start on a clean slate. Every student will have the same grade and opportunity to make this semester better than the last. It got me thinking. Can this apply to teachers? What do I need to improve on in the Spring that lacked in the Fall? My thoughts and ideas developed into my very first New Year’s Resolution. It only took thirty years.
2011 was a year of readjustments. We added a third child to our family thirteen months after we added our second. I’m not going to sugar coat this. Life has been tough. I have struggled playing the role of a mother, wife, and teacher. The balancing act between home and work has turned into a juggling act between teaching, parenting, and the day to day tasks that have to be done.
I have had to learn to live with toys that aren’t picked up, fast food, and a mounting pile of laundry. I have had to ignore dust on my shelves and fingerprints on my fridge. But Professionally, I couldn’t do the same. My job requires me to be accountable for over one hundred students (Yes! Dibble is that big!). I can’t accept lessons that aren’t prepared and learning that doesn’t take place.
I want my class to be fun AND relevant. I want my students to take ownership of their own learning and incorporate it into their lives by choice and not for a grade. This year, I found a world of educators to assist me who are beyond the walls of my middle school in Oklahoma. By hashtags and mentions, I am globally connected to teachers who are master’s of their professions. I hope my students will participate in a flat classroom as I do in my professional development.
Taking on these major transformations and reinventing myself as a teacher has been overwhelming. Projects haven’t went as planned and my school is behind in current educational trends and student needs. There is a fear of a digital world they don’t understand, and some lack the self driven initiative to educate themselves. Several lessons I have prepared were useless because of blocked sites and secret passwords.
My goal is to have a classroom that resembles the twenty-first century my students live in. I have had many great accomplishments. However, while trying to engage my students, I have disengaged myself. I have been too wrapped up in new technologies and the frustrations of not being able to access them. I have been unapproachable at times and my complaints have outweighed my humor. One day my students will learn in an environment that is relevant to the society and future they are required to adapt too. But regardless of technology or the lack of, there are more important elements that have been absent in my classroom. Here are the needs of my students I will commit to provide before the need of a digital education:
#1 I will remember that my students crave my attention. Good or bad, ALL students want attention. Disruptions often happen when a student is not recognized for positive behavior. This goes along with the saying, “bad press is better than no press.” To them, if you know their bad reputation, it is better than not knowing them at all.
#2 I will remind myself that going to school is not a choice, but a student can choose to be actively involved in their own education. I have the ability to make my class inviting and enjoyable. I am a key factor in my students’ desire to participate and excel. I am only as engaging as I am relevant to their day to day lives. I must learn how they learn and stay current in new tools and resources. This may require me to work harder than my students.
#3 I will live my life as a teacher AND a role model. How I treat my students has a direct effect on how they treat others. I once heard, “Hurt people hurt people.” I will not be the reason my students walk the halls angry. I will offer a positive option to a negative situation. Any discipline action will be followed with a positive alternative.
#4 I will be popular among my students even if it makes me unpopular with other teachers. My success as a teacher is dependent on my students and no one else. I want my students to like me as a person so they will trust me as a teacher. I want my students relaxed and comfortable. In successful countries like Finland, students are not required to wear shoes. School resembles the comfort of home and play. My goal is to have my classroom resemble the comradely of a lunchroom table or chat on Facebook.
#5 I am going to provide more positive feedback than discipline referrals. I will emphasize what a student does that is right before I complain about what is not. Regardless of personality, EVERYONE wants to be complimented. A negative behavior is limited when it is confronted with a positive attitude.
In 2012, I want to remember why I love my profession. I have a chance everyday to make a difference. I have an opportunity to be someone who can change a child’s life and contribute to their destiny. My job is different from any other profession. Compared to the seven billion people living on earth, my influence may only affect a few, but it’s impact will be seen for generations.