Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Tomorrow is my last normal day of class for this school year.  On Friday, the Juniors will be out of class, helping out with the elementary school field day.  Though Monday is a regular class schedule, each of my classes will be starting their culminating events (presentations) on that day.  Tuesday is Senior Comps, Wednesday through Friday are culminating event days, Friday night is graduation.

It feels so weird to be at this point--somehow incomplete.  It feels like I was only just energetically telling my students that "history is now and we're living it!"  I'm amazed at how much energy and momentum I started off this school year with and ashamed of how little I'm finishing with.  I fell victim to my own expectations, and tried so hard to fit the Juniors I taught this year into the mold I'd cast with the class of 2012 last year.  There were good moments of learning, and I established positive relationships with a lot of individuals... but I think I never managed to earn the attention and respect of the class as a whole because I simply couldn't get past trying to shove them into the same spot that last year's Juniors had occupied.

My take-away from this is that I need to be willing to take the time to get to know a class before I lock in the specifics of what learning will look like for the duration of the year.  I did this at the beginning of the last school-year, but because last year went so smoothly, I tried to apply the exact same heuristic to my classes this year.  Rookie mistake, I suppose--each class has a different personality and just because a certain way of doing things is fun and meaningful for one group doesn't mean that it will be fun and meaningful for another group.  I was reminded of this today as some of my former students, Seniors, signed my yearbook--something that came up repeatedly was how much they enjoyed my class, how fun they thought it was, how much they learned, how they appreciated my teaching style.  By contrast, most of the direct feedback I've heard from my Juniors this year is how bored they are and how little they care about the content of my class.  While I know that there are many who do enjoy my class who have not been so vocal, it stings to hear the apathy which seemed so much rarer last year.  Especially since I know that it was really on me to figure out how to engage this new group, and I never did.  I abandoned the way I did things last year and tried to find the right frequency, but I don't feel like I ever really locked into it.  As I said, I'm not going to lose sleep over this--learning still happened, the kids still grew, they're still ready to be Seniors... I just feel like I missed an opportunity to really inspire them and capture their attention and imagination with what I was teaching and how I was teaching.  I guess I can't win 'em all.

We're ending in a better place than we did two years ago, after my first year of teaching--a year filled with misunderstanding, conflict, lost trust and impatience with each other.  We're ending on friendly terms this time, but oh so different than the cupcakes, scrapbook, class photo and tearful goodbyes that I had with my Juniors at this time last year.  Perhaps that's why it feels incomplete.  Perhaps I'm still holding that great year as a standard by which I measure my success and failure as a teacher.  Maybe I need to reevaluate how I define success; not to lower my standards, but to broaden them, to look for different indications of success and of course to continually be on the look-out for new and engaging ways to pursue success as a teacher.

Somehow I'd envisioned that each year of teaching would get easier, each year planning would get easier, but I now see that the further in I travel, the more I become aware of complexities and nuances that I was blind to before.  I'm not entirely sure where my planning and prep-work this summer will start, but I do know that next year will be a completely different ball-game altogether!

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