Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Beginnings

After four years of teaching 2nd grade I've moved up to fourth grade. Today was the first day of school.  I'm tired.  Really tired!  My wife actually just looked over at me and told me I look exhausted. She's right. But I'm excited also!

Last year was the most difficult year of teaching I've ever had.  There were many challenges that eventually just overtook me.  It was a very emotionally exhausting year.  The truth is, I took things a bit personally and took the struggles of some of my students on as my own.  I know from talking to teachers over the years that everyone has a year like that every once in a while, last year was mine...

A year like that definitely made me question a few things, including my abilities as a teacher.  It made me doubt myself for sure.  So I entered this year with that hanging over me a bit.  But at the same time, I'm determined to not have a repeat of last year. I do think I've learned a few things from the struggle.

Over the last several days as I've prepared my classroom I've been doing a lot of thinking about things.  I have a summer of perspective on my year and it's allowed me to make some shifts in my thinking.  There were many of my students who did make great progress last year both academically and socially.  I was also able to remind myself that there are many things I cannot control and that I did my best to help all of my students.  But most of all I regained perspective on what's most important to me as a teacher.

Teaching for me has always been about the relationships I build with the students and creating an environment where kids feel safe and empowered.  Everything flows from that.  Teaching and learning happen so naturally when you build a strong community in the classroom.  I know these days there is so much emphasis on high stakes testing and data.  It's easy to slip into thinking that's what matters most because of all the pressure put on teachers and schools to get good test scores with no excuses.  But teaching kids how to score well on a test is such a small part of what I believe will ultimately make them happy and productive people both now and down the road.  Kids need to learn problem solving, social skills, empathy and teamwork.  They need to feel valued as people and gain confidence that they can be successful.  And that's just scratching the surface really...

I was able to bring that perspective into the classroom today and had a great time.  We did some art, went over rules and procedures, and got to know each other a bit through some other activities.  It was a really wonderful day. I'm hopeful about this year.  I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on my 26 students' lives, and for that I am very grateful!


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