Tag Archives: staying positive

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. 

What a Month!

8 Oct

Wow! It has been far too long since I last posted… life just runs away sometimes!  The month of September was CRAZY!!! My first month flying solo and I’m finally getting around to reflecting on my time in Year 2.As many of my fellow graduates have discovered, real-life teaching is very different to what we experience on Professional Experience placements.  The excitement of finally getting to live out our ‘pedagogical dreams’ is overwhelmed by the flurry of students’ names, unfamiliar routines and lapses in self-confidence.  To be completely honest, there were a couple of days where I went home thinking teaching was the last thing in the world that I was made for.  But when I reflect on my first 20 days of teaching and wise words from my principal I know that this is the career for me.

Challenges

  • Developing rapport with students quickly
  • Stepping into another teacher’s routines and expectations of students
  • Reacting positively to “But normally MrsX does it this way…”
  • Knowing when to take things personally and when to reflect and move on

Highlights

  • Having parents let me know their students are loving coming to school
  • A break through with a reluctant writer
  • Watching the students shine in their school concert
  • Beautiful thank you/goodbye cards
  • Developing relationships with school staff

At the end of the day there will always be distant students, concerned parents, hectic timetables and crisis of confidence.  What is important is that we focus on what really matters – being genuine and transparent in the classroom, collaborating with and supporting our colleagues and passionately pursuing professional development in order to care for our students best.  I am setting myself the goal of focusing on the positives and the things that I can change each and every day.

Casual Teaching Tips

8 Aug

Today’s GUEST POST is from Miss Michael, a fellow 2012 graduate teacher, has kindly agreed to share some of her Casual Teaching Tips for those of us who are yet to begin our relief teaching.  Enjoy 🙂 Mrs Wansink

Having only just finished uni (approximately 1 hour ago) and having only just begun my casual teaching (5 days so far), I have pretty limited experience in the field… Nonetheless, I’ve agreed to put together a small collection of things that have worked for me so far as a casual teacher.

A CASUAL TOOLKIT
As a casual, it’s important to be able to quickly access quality resources for those 7am calls when you have very limited time to prepare a days worth of lessons. I keep my resources in a portable filing box so if I’m really short on time, I can just bring the whole box with me to school!

Two top inclusions for a casual toolkit:
1. Resources that can be used across several (or all) year levels. It’s really handy to have a few things that you know can be easily adapted for any year level – this is particularly handy for when you plan for one year level and get switched to another class last minute. (Trust me, it can happen!)
2. Children’s books that you know really well.  This saves time looking for an appropriate book at school and if you know it well enough you’ll be able to deliver a way more interesting reading of it to the students.

FLEXIBILITY
While it’s great to be prepared, you can’t be set on things going the way you’ve planned.  There are a lot of variables that can come into play throughout a day (many of which you might not be told about).

Those I’ve encountered so far include:

  • Changes to the daily routine (assemblies, special events, specialised language/music instruction etc)
  • Finding out your class is studying a particular unit of work. (You can choose to ignore this or take it as an opportunity to adapt part of a lesson to relate to this unit)
  • No access to the SmartBoard … and the list goes on…

STAYING POSITIVE (one of Mrs Wansink’s favourites!)
Being a casual teacher can be tough. Not knowing the class, OR the school, OR the routines OR the effective behaviour management strategies can be daunting and difficult to get your head around. Find a way to stay positive even in the moments you find yourself completely lost (I have found that eavesdropping on Kindergarten conversations during recess is sure to cheer you up!).

Some final tips:

  • DO learn students’ names
  • DO get to the staffroom and mingle on your breaks
  • DO leave the room neat and tidy
  • DO take notes during the day to leave for the teacher
  • DO SMILE A LOT!
 

Miss Michael is a 23 year old fresh-out-of-uni, primary teaching, music playing, cooking enthusiast! You can find out more about Miss Michael’s teaching adventures at littlemissmichael.wordpress.com

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