This past week as my students were helping me to pack up our classroom, getting ready to say good-bye to our school, I had them reflect on their time at our school and now that the last of my boxes are safely stored away in my basement, ready for my next adventure at a different school (but more on that in another post), I’ve been doing some reflecting myself on what I’ve learned this past year: what I want to take with me and what I want to leave behind, much like the piles of papers and supplies that I sorted through the last two days.
It was a wonderful year. I was fortunate enough to work with a great group of women and I can’t say enough about how supportive they were and how much I’m going to miss them. I feel like I learned a lot this year. I learn a lot every year, I think it’s part of the nature of the job. There were some challenges of course. There were days when I felt like there was no way I was going to survive until June. But for the most part it was a great year and I hope I’ve grown a lot as a teacher. Here are a few of the things I’d like to take with me as I look towards next year.
Seems like an odd thing for me to be excited about especially since I felt so frustrated by all these new forms I needed to find and create this year. It was rough but it was also satisfying knowing how my students were doing. Some of the forms were more useful than others and there were times in the year where I was too busy to keep everything up to date but by the end I feel like I was starting to fall into the rhythm of it to the point where it was becoming more useful. This coming year, our school district is implementing both a new data tracking system and a new report card so I’m hoping all this experience with extra tracking will prove useful.
Let down the mask
I had a tendency, especially in my first few years of teaching and at the beginning of this year as well, to put on my “teacher face” and be Mme Chiasson rather than being me. I wasn’t one of those teachers who never smiles or never shares anything about themselves or is a constant disciplinarian, but there were especially some years and some times where it was exhausting holding on to that calm, collected, in-control demeanor all the time. I think I get that from my mother. She was always so calm in the classroom and she was such a fantastic teacher that that’s what I try to emulate and it’s great most of the time. But there were a few more times this year, and last, where I felt like I could relax and be more myself and enjoy my students. I had less of a barrier between them and me and a better relationship with them.
I remember one year, I had a really hard year and it felt like any time that I let my guard down even a little bit, chaos broke out in the room and someone could potentially get hurt and I would spend the rest of the day putting out fires. But one day one of the students did something or said something funny right during O Canada. I can’t even remember who it was, or what they did, but I burst out laughing. And my students remembered that. That was their fond memory from that year when I asked them at the end of the year. They got nostalgic over “that one time that we made Mme laugh during O Canada”. Isn’t that strange?
Another way I got to know some of my students and other students in the school better, was by directing our school musical this year. I felt a bit bad because I couldn’t come to many of the after school events at our school this year because of conflicts with my theatre groups and because I live a bit far from the school. But I did put in a lot of time and energy into drama at school and it was great to get to know some of the students in a different way. It was also nice to be able to share my passion for something other than teaching with them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do drama next year as there’s already a teacher who takes on the musical there each year but we’ll see. If not, I’ll try to think of something else, maybe a dance club or something so that I can get to know students outside of the classroom.
You can’t please everyone
This is an obvious one I think but it was one I thought about a lot this year. Everyone has their own ideas about education and “best practices”. Some things work better for some teachers than for others. And educators are mainly very passionate about their opinions on “best practices”. And what may seem like a great idea for one person could be terrible for someone else. There were times when I have felt pressures to do things in my classroom that I didn’t feel would work for me. Sometimes it worked out fine, sometimes it didn’t but I’ve learned to trust my instincts. I know that my method of doing things is always changing and can’t please everyone. But if I’m content and my students are helping to create a good learning environment then I am doing what I should.
Accept and ask for help
Especially early on, I felt like if I asked for help, if I seemed like I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, then that would make me look like I was incompetent. Now I know that’s foolish. Asking for help from other teachers, from administration, even from students helps to foster a healthy learning community. It shows that you value their input and their knowledge. Same thing with offering to help when you see someone having a problem or when you have some knowledge that they don’t.
There are so many other things I could put on this list and more that I may add later in the summer but this is a good start for now. What have you learned this year that you want to carry forward or leave behind?