As the year winds down (and/or gets crazier, but I won't depress you with the details), I've started reflecting on my teaching practice and progress, and my goals both personally and professionally.
I have realized this year, more dramatically than last year, how important building relationships with students is. I am learning that through successes, failures, and tumult in this area, as well as the immortal spirit of my students' second grade teacher, who I feel like I know through my students. It's clear to me from the way my students reminisce and talk about her that she developed close, deep relationships with many, if not all of them. I have been hearing a lot about this since we heard about the school closing: every morning our principal begins announcements by saying, "Good Morning Fermi Family!" My kids take this assertion to heart. I can tell that it's important to them to feel like a part of a family at our school. And they definitely felt that with their second grade teacher. I have had multiple students tell me they felt like she treated them like one of her own kids. (I've had students tell me this as well. I've also had kids tell me they think I don't care at all.) The fact that they say these things shows just how important it is to my students that they feel loved and valued and cared for by their teacher. This reflection is why I'm realizing that I need to make time to talk to kids one on one, in a non-academic setting. Just to talk to them and listen to them. That's a big goal I have for the next eight weeks: make one on one time for all of my students.
I've also learned that there are goals outside of academics that need to be prioritized. And if I'm not at a level of expertise where I can accomplish multiple priorities, then I have to decide what's a top priority. This year I realized how important it is to maintain a calm environment. I realized this because of the reality that I can't always provide this to my students. But usually I can, and I strive to do that by any means necessary. It doesn't always involve the most student-centric teaching methods. But my students deserve a classroom that is a calm, safe place, and I will do everything in my power to give that to them.
I am also excited about finally having enough of a baseline of competence to be able to effectively use my summer to plan and prepare for next year. To some extent I was able to do that last year, but there was still a lot of pie-in-the-sky style planning that happened, and I was also just too consumed with renovating the house to be able to really dig in. This year I have a much better idea of what I'm going to do to be a better teacher next fall. I'm going to read every book listed in Fountas and Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers so that I've got a ready list of excellent books that can be used to teach various skills and strategies. I'm going to dig in to the Everyday Math curriculum, and also talk to other first grade teachers about what kids at that grade need to know, are ready to learn, and how they understand math. I want to read some books on teaching literacy that colleagues have recommended that I just haven't had time for.
On the personal side, I have learned that I need a hobby. I am still working on weekends, and I usually work between 60-70 hours a week. That's fine for now (provided I can lower my stress levels during the time I am in front of students) but I need to cultivate non-work interests. This year I still feel like I just work. I have started doing yoga twice a week which I imagine has had a positive impact on my stress levels. But there are so many things that I love and miss that I need to be doing. When you don't have a hobby, you end up thinking about work even when you're not actively working. That's not a break! I would like to join a choir again, or join a figure-drawing studio. Get back in touch with things that are both challenging and relaxing to me and also have nothing to do with my job.
I am looking forward to ending this year on a high note and making year three the best year yet!