I'm an over-thinker.
I used to be an anxious worrier. Now I'm an over-thinker, which may just be a nicer way of labeling myself, but that's beside the point. The point is: I over-think things.
I found myself guilty this week of over-thinking about how I will manage and reward my future 7th Graders. I reached out to my future teammate and even to my future principal, and I asked for honest feedback on my ideas, which I fleshed out in a lengthy email. The end result was receiving feedback (which I greatly appreciated) and realizing that I was over-thinking. I had turned students into lions and was reinventing how to tame them. How ridiculous.
I like to draw a blueprint of my classroom and play around with the layout of furniture and whatnot. This usually helps me when the school year starts because I already have in my mind what the room looks like before I even set foot back in it. Since I'm moving to a new building and to a new learning space, I can only use some shapes on a building map to sketch my blueprint, and as I was attempting to play architect this week, I had to stop myself. I have no idea what my future classroom actually looks like. I don't know its dimensions, its nooks and crannies, or even where the bulletin boards are placed. I was over-thinking. Again.
All of this over-thinking, though, has allowed me to open my mind up to the things that I will undoubtedly need to unlearn. That's right. Unlearn. I've known an elementary-style of classroom management and set-up for 16 years. And although some of my knowledge will transfer to the new setting, I have to be open to unlearning what will not serve me and my students. I plan to rely on my teammates to show and explain what works and what doesn't, because the process of unlearning old things is just as important as learning new things.
For about a week straight, I kept receiving calls from a number that I didn't recognize. My phone would ring during the school day and at night, even at bedtime. One day, enough was enough. I dialed the number right back immediately after receiving yet another call. Long story short, the person who answered revealed that he was a Jamaican scuba diver with a jealous fiance, and he believed his fiance was the one calling me. Although I had no idea how this man (or his jealous fiance) got my phone number, I wasn't going to argue with him or create a big commotion over some random (annoying) calls. I spoke professionally and kindly to the man, and he apologized profusely for the disturbances.
During our brief phone conversation, he asked me who I was and what I did for a living (I assume to determine if his jealous fiance somehow knew me). I answered by telling him my name and that I was "just a teacher". As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized that I had totally diminished not only myself but also my profession. I spent the next few days mulling this over in my mind, knowing that once my thoughts were fully formed I'd blog about being "just a teacher". So here I am...and here I go...
Being "just a teacher" means using every minute of the school day to your advantage, and expecting your students to do the same.
Being "just a teacher" means going without breakfast (so that you can get to school and work on something) and going without lunch (so that you can continue to be productive (send emails, make phone calls, make copies, touch base with a colleague, etc.).
Being "just a teacher" means constantly searching for ways to improve upon whatever you taught last year, last month, last week, and the day before.
Being "just a teacher" means spending (an absurd amount of) your own money on everything from supplies you need to supplies your students need to rewards like tacos, bagels, and Starbucks.
Being "just a teacher" means worrying about, praying for, and crying over kids who aren't yours biologically.
Being "just a teacher" means perhaps being the one adult who actually loves on, cares for, and provides for a kid consistently, non-judgmentally, and generously without any strings attached.
Being "just a teacher" means bonding with your colleagues when the waves of Life get choppy, or when the test scores tank, or when the building suffers a loss.
Being "just a teacher" means starting over. Every. Day. And never giving up.
Being "just a teacher" means feeling rung out, irrelevant, and disrespected on some days...and satisfied, needed, and loved on other days.
I guess it's safe to say that being "just a teacher" is definitely a calling and not just a career. There are people who cannot handle all that the job demands, and having the Summer "off" isn't as luxurious as non-educators assume. I am proud to label myself as "just a teacher" because now I realize who I am, what I do, and who I impact. And it's ALL worth it.
A week ago, I had the privilege of visiting Antonia Middle School for three hours. During my time there, I chatted with future colleagues, sat in on three class periods, and had a question/answer session with the building principal. When I had to leave for lunch and to commute to another professional development opportunity, I felt sad. I didn't want to leave Antonia Middle.
In just three hours, I discovered what's waiting for me at Antonia Middle.
Peace and professionalism.
Focus and fun.
Learning and love.
Since my visit, I've thought of nothing but what next school year is going to feel like, sound like, and look like. I've had some restless nights of sleep from being so excited about what's on the horizon. I feel blessed by my new placement and cannot wait to learn and love at Antonia Middle.
I'm a bit like Garfield the cat when it comes to Mondays. They're not my favorite day of the week, and they are usually greeted with groans, mumbling under my breath, and a long morning shower. But today, I woke to the reality that I have just 9 Mondays left to the school year.
I think about what I have left to accomplish as a 6th-grade teacher. Of course there is some ground to cover with 4th Quarter units to teach. And there will be a standardized test in May to measure what has been taught or learned, depending on your point of view. But I have a few other things that I want to accomplish before I seal up the last box and move out of my current building.
I want to continue to give my students a fun, safe, productive learning space. A place that allows choices and voices and questions. I want to continue to align assignments so that my students aren't doing things in isolation. I want to continue to read good literature and to moderate discussions about what we read. I want to continue to encourage my students to scratch below the surface of a topic and to go deeper with their learning. I want to continue to keep instruction fresh, relevant, and engaging...even while doing the countdown.
Recently I was watching a college athletic game on TV, and when the teams took a timeout, I noticed some things.
One coach crouched down with his team around him and went over future plays. While the coach explained plays, every player was listening in and paying attention. Not one player was zoned out, tying shoes, wiping sweat, or gawking at fans. When the timeout ended, the players headed back out onto the court with a renewed focus and energy.
This left me wondering...
What if teachers behaved more like coaches?
What if lessons were coordinated plays, allowing students to play to their strengths?
What if students approached every learning opportunity with a big-game mentality?
What if teachers could keep every student's head in the game?
How would motivation, engagement, and learning change with coach-player roles?
These questions need answers.
My name is