Tag Archives: reflections

A Joyful Day – Back to School

4 Feb

How would I describe today? JOYFUL!

Well, the words that I started the day with were NERVOUS EXCITEMENT but 5 minutes into having my beautiful class in our room the word was JOYFUL.

I regret that I didn’t do a first day reflection post last year so I have decided to do a quick brain dump for future posterity.

When you receive your class list, they are students that you learn about and make name tags for but when you call their names in assembly and see their smiling faces ready to go and they become ‘yours’.  There is something magical about students walking through the door of their new classroom with their parents – eyes lighting up when they see their name tags and activities to begin the day.

A school tour (even in the freezing winds) was a wonderful way to have a bit of an adventure, give new students with important information and practice working as a team to move quickly and quietly around the school.

A game that I love to begin the year with is “Find someone who…”.  Not only is this a great get-to-know-you activity but it also provides an opportunity for me to suss out students literacy skills, reading and writing.  There is no pressure on students to get things ‘right’ and they just loved interviewing one another.  It was a beautiful chance for my older students to take the younger kids under their wing – helping with spelling and finding people to interview.

We finished the day by brainstorming what we would like the year to look like – things we would like to learn, things that will help our classroom run smoothly and words that we use to describe what our class should be.  I just adore hearing students’ ideas and feeling their growing sense of one-ness.  This is such an exciting conversation to have; knowing that these expectations, expressed by the students, are what will support them in doing their best and being successful in their learning.  The team vibe grew so quickly today and I just cannot wait to nurture it as we create a supportive classroom community.

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So, I am buzzing after a day of laughter, friendship forming and pleasant surprises.  Future self – please remember this day…in all of the nerves, sleepless nights and restless anticipation – remember that meeting your new class is joyful (and exhausting). I love how my dear teaching friend describes it: “It’s like Christmas for teachers; you are given 20 presents to look after for the year”.

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Term 1 Reflections

28 Apr

Wow – I can’t believe how much I have been struggling to write this post! School holidays are all but over and I have been feeling a serious lack of inspiration.  This has confused me because the last 10 weeks have been incredibly thought provoking – I expected that my brain would have been bursting with things to write about.  After some reflection I put this case of writers block down to my poor brain just needing a break.  I knew teaching would be hard work; I knew I would be physically and emotionally exhausted but I underestimated just how much it would wear me out mentally.

I have never been great at switching my brain off.  If I am focused on something it is usually all I talk about, think about and dream about.  School has been no exception.  So there is Goal #1 for term 2 – find something to take the focus off school work.  Even if only for half an hour.  I love knitting, have just begun sewing and adore baking and reading.  My goal for term 2 is to spend at least 1/2 an hour every day doing something totally UN-school related.

Sewing Project

Goal #2 Believe in myself.  By week 3 of term 1 I exclaimed to my poor husband – “I CAN’T BE A TEACHER!”.  I felt so completely hopeless and as though I had failed to “become” the teacher I wanted to become.  I know you’re all thinking ‘excuse me, you only gave it 3 weeks!?’ and I totally agree (in hindsight).  I placed expectations on myself to be better than everyone expected me to be, and along came a whole heap of unrealistic goals.  My wise and wonderful team leader kept reminding me “give it til Easter, you’ll feel more on top of it by then” and thankfully – she was right.  Good thing I didn’t throw in the towel at week3.

As I look back at term 1 I realise that I actually was very successful in beginning to become the teacher I want to become.  I formed relationships with my students (some came more easily than others), I created a classroom environment in which students who initially shied away from risks are now eager to ‘have-a-go’ and I engaged enthusiastically with my team as we navigated our new composite class structure.

In this first term I have discovered something.  I have discovered that I am a good teacher – not because of years of experience or my nerdy nature.  I am a good teacher because I am surrounded by caring, supportive, proactive colleagues and peers, who push me to believe in myself, challenge myself and remain accountable for the teacher I want to become.  Goal #3 Continue to help other graduates remain accountable for the teachers that they are becoming as we support one another along the way.

Graduate

Embracing the Process

3 Mar

During a parent-teacher interview I heard these words coming out of my mouth “It’s about the process not the product”

WHAT!?

I was of course referring to the importance of students embracing and valuing the process of learning – questioning, being challenged, collaborating, investigating and thinking deeply – rather than always becoming hung up on the final product (be it an unfinished writing task, maths sheet or Y chart).

I have since realised that that piece of advice is incredibly pertinent to me at this very point in my teaching career.

I will not lie, I am a very competitive person – not always publicly – but on the inside I am a very harsh critic of myself and my achievements, always wondering if I’m up to standard.  I have found myself asking ‘am I keeping up’, ‘does my classroom look the way others look by this time of year’, ‘are my students demonstrating behaviour that reflects the expectations I have for them yet’, ‘are our routines evident yet’? Basically I have been self doubting myself into a crisis of confidence – all in an effort to ‘produce’ my dream classroom.

But classrooms are not produced.  They do not simply ‘pop up’.  They are never complete or polished.  Classrooms evolve.  They develop through relationships and are shaped by not only my own ideals but the individual experiences and beliefs of each and every child that walks in the door.

I received a card from one of my students saying ‘You’re the best teacher.  I love you because you are kind’.

Caring, I mean truly caring, comes with time, shared experiences and the growth of mutual trust and respect.  That cannot be rushed; it will never be a final product and cannot be ticked off a ‘to do’ list.  I want my students to remember me because I cared – not because they knew their routines by week 4 or had a snazzy looking classroom.

Taking time to reflect has given me challenging insights into my own preferences for learning – I am very product driven.  But I must not allow that to prevent me from celebrating the challenges that come with day to day growth and vulnerability as I focus on the individuals that have been placed in my care.

What an emotionally exhausting, mentally fatiguing and physically arduous profession teaching is – but only if your focus is on the ‘product’ (or lack thereof)….a year is a long time.

How immeasurably rewarding it is when you can focus on the priceless moments found in the process of every day.

Joyful Reflections

1 Feb

I have just completed my first two days of school professional development as a real, live teacher.  The focus for the two days has been on unpacking and becoming conscious of our school ‘brand’. I hope to do a post very soon expanding on the wonderful things we learned and talked about during this P.D but for now I would like to share my reflections on my personal journey that occurred.

We were asked to reflect on and share our favourite and least favourite memories from primary school, our time as pre-service teachers and teachers, as well as considering the school values and guiding principles which resonate with us most (and least).  A seemingly easy task stirred in me a plethora of unexpected emotions. Thinking about my own positive experiences and hearing those of others stirred in me excitement at the prospect of being a part of joyful memories for my students.

However, it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy.  Doubt crept in moving me to question my ability to be creative enough, exuberant enough and memorable enough.  The sharing of negative experiences kindled anxiety, fear and further doubt – will I be able to withstand the tough times? Am I passionate enough to stick it out through the inevitable hurdles? How can I make a difference amongst so many challenges?  To be completely honest I felt like hiding and having a good cry.

Thankfully, the day didn’t end there!

Our second session involved discussing the strengths and weaknesses of our school and ourselves.  Discussion uncovered the abundant strengths of our fabulous school.  When remembering my first impression of the school, nearly a year ago, I recall being overwhelmed firstly by the delightfully cheerful, helpful and welcoming administration staff. Relationships were quickly formed as my professional experience placement progressed. I have been struck by how friendly, collaborative and child-focused the staff at the school is and how this is nurtured by our executive team in a whole school approach.

As we delved into the aspects of our school which we would like to improve we were surprisingly not confronted by negativity and disappointment. Rather, we were led to critically consider our role in creating change as we noticed, perhaps for the first time, the impact of things seemingly out of our control on the way in which we are perceived.  We became excited at the prospect of embracing change and improving ourselves.  I was touched by the incredible support system surrounding my school and the way in which our whole group values are aligned, our visions are shared and our hopes for the future ignite a common passion.

At the end of the day I did not feel fearful, anxious or doubtful.  In fact until it came time to share the day’s events with my husband I had completely forgotten my earlier feelings of trepidation.  I was not focused on the words “I”, “Me” or “My”.  I did not desperately wish to curl up in a corner in the foetal position.  I was excited about US!

I am amazed at how becoming vulnerable opened me up to sharing more deeply with others and encouraged me to celebrate my community rather than dwelling on my own weaknesses and doubts.  My participation in this school or in the broader education community is not about ME.  It’s not about doing it all myself.

We will encounter challenges, we will struggle and we will have moments where we question ourselves but it’s not about ME.  I am overjoyed to have entered a profession and, more importantly a school, that is about collaboration, support, encouragement, growth and lifelong learning.

YIPPEE!

Beginning the Year with Confidence

14 Jan

We all remember the feeling when our mentoring teacher gave us positive feedback on our very first professional experience placement.  Since then we have had many more mentoring teachers and, in many cases, more positive feedback.  Throughout our university degree we are taught to believe in ourselves and are encouraged to learn confidence.

While on my very first placement as a paid teacher I began to wonder if my learnt confidence was all a facade.  The challenge was not simply working full-time, getting to know the kids or finding my way around the school.  The challenge, rather, was establishing what kind of teacher I hope to be and finding my voice amongst experienced colleagues.  I am very blessed to have the most amazing mentor at my school as well as wonderful friends at other schools and thanks to these support networks I am well cared for and continually encouraged.  It is a sad fact that many graduate teachers do not stay with teaching due to perceived lack of autonomy as professionals and the unmet desire for consistent and genuine peer/colleague support.

As many of us look forward to beginning our first year of teaching at the end of this month I wanted to encourage you and remind you to be confident in the teacher that you want to be.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from others, or be flexible – but it does mean focus on the passion that you have for teaching and the exciting things you have learnt and want to have a shot at in the classroom.  I’ll leave you with some words of encouragement from another fabulous mentor of mine, Misty Adoniou.

“The summer before you begin your first teaching position is usually filled with  both excitement and apprehension. For a start, some of you haven’t heard about  a job yet, and that news can come even after school has gone back. Others know what school they are going to, but are unsure what grade they will be given. And even that can change in the first week as enrollments in schools sometimes following unpredictable patterns.  Some lucky ones know their grade and have even seen the room they will be teaching in.

Whatever your situation, you are already starting to imagine ‘your’ classroom and wondering what ‘your’ kids will be like. As tempting as it is to spend your holidays laminating birthday charts and pencil tins…..spend your time now reminding yourself what it is you want to achieve as a teacher, and think about the actions that will help that happen. For example, do you think teaching is about making connections with students and working with their strengths? Then, what can you do in the first few weeks to help you get to know your students, both their academic and non-academic strengths?  Do you think learning happens when children work together? Then, what can you do in the first few weeks to build community spirit and shared visions in your classroom?

Your room doesn’t have to look perfect by Week 3, and you don’t have to have your programmes all underway in the first week.  By Week 3 you are going to be sooooo tired, simply because the newness of it all is going to physically exhaust you, and the responsibility of it all is going is going to mentally exhaust you. So don’t make things even harder for yourself by trying to have everything up and running.  Use the time to establish relationships and routines – it will be time well spent and will pay dividends as the year goes on. 

And find a kindred spirit. Find the person in your school who wants the same things you do out of teaching, who talks about the children in ways that feel good to you, who has ideas that resound with you.  And if you can’t immediately locate that person in the school, stay connected to the person who did that for you at university.  Maybe it was a fellow student, or maybe it was a lecturer or a tutor.  Friends and family are going to be very important morale boosters this year, but a kindred spirit who is a fellow educator will help you to remember the teacher you want to be and support you to be that teacher.  And if I know one thing about teaching, it is that the satisfied and happy teachers are the ones who are being the teachers they always wanted to be.  When you are a beginning teacher, particularly in this current challenging educational environment, it isn’t always easy to do the teaching that you want to do. But you should never lose the vision – find the people who will help you realize your vision and stay connected to them. 

Finally, a piece of very practical advice. Take the time now to make some dinners and put them in the freezer. You will be too tired to prepare a decent meal for yourself in the first few weeks, but you really do need some nutritious food each evening in order to be on top of things the next day. Two minute noodles or a bowl of rice bubbles isn’t going to cut it! ”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMisty Adoniou was a classroom for teacher for 20 years before joining the Faculty of Education at the University of Canberra where she lectures in language and literacy and keenly follows the careers of newly qualified teachers. 

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