Friday, February 10, 2012

Take A Step Back

This week, our master teacher was out for a few days with strep throat.  We missed her a lot, and we're such a small staff that you really notice when you have to fill in the gaps for someone that's out.  On Wednesdays after school, we have Cluster meetings.  Cluster is a weekly meeting time for us to develop our teaching skills, learn new strategies, plan their implementation in our classroomsl, and reflect on our teaching.  We are a TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) school, and this is one of the many requirements of TAP schools.  Our master teacher is our resident TAP expert and leads these meetings every week.  This week, our Principal filled in the gap and led our Cluster.  We had to really take a step back and learn how to learn. 

Obviously, as teachers, we have high expectations of our students.  We expect them to learn, to work through their struggles, to continue to try, to study different techniques until one is found that makes the lightbulb go off.  In short, we expect them to persevere and to eventually become successful or master the task.  How often do we as teachers hear, "Slow down and focus on content mastery"?  Well, TAP makes teachers learn.  Sometimes it's frustrating.  Often it's hard, and occasionally it's really hard.  I feel like sometimes we fight the learning for fear and just shut down without even attempting to bend our minds around the  new concept.  Our principal reminded us during her teaching and "think aloud" that we have to be more willing to learn and learn to learn again.  Now, we're all still capable of learning.  We learn new things all the time.  But as teachers, I feel like we're sometimes more close minded about what WE personally are doing in our classrooms.  We often don't handle criticism well.  We need to take a step back and think. 

I'm terrible about keeping up with my IGP (Individualized Growth Plan), which is another TAP requirement.  We pick an area of weakness and try to improve in that area weekly.  Luckily, I'm always thinking about my IGP and what I can do to improve as a teacher.  Maybe this is because I'm a bit of a perfectionist (what teacher isn't at least a little type A?) or maybe it's because I'm young and still trying to carve everything out in my career.  Either way, I think it's a good thing, but it's so frustrating to both hold yourself to and be held to such very high standards of performance/ excellence.  Our Cluster meeting Wednesday and the train of thoughts it's sparked for me has made me not only step back and evaluate myself, but has also made me remember what it's like to be a student in your most difficult subject area class.  I don't generally think about how that feels because those days are long gone and who honestly wants to relive less-than-pleasant moments of their past?  I've been thinking about them this week though.  I'm a student now, working towards my master's, but I'm learning things that I'm passionate about and tend to be at least decent at doing.  So now I feel more empathy for my kids, especially those with any sort of LD.  I feel empathy for the kid that "gets it" early in the lesson while the rest of the class is asking confusing questions.  I experienced that again on Wednesday as well.

Long story short, I think this is a great time (for us, we just started 3rd 9 weeks, so we're almost exactly halfway through the school year) to take a step back, evaluate, make a plan, maybe some lists, and really THINK about learning as a teacher and as a student.  It's been pretty interesting.

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