40 days, and the freedom to be an imperfect teacher.

Spring break ends tonight, and tomorrow marks the 40 school days countdown to summer break. Hallelujah! This year for me has been the most challenging, and at times I truly wanted to quit. It felt like the odds were stacked against me, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for this year to be over.

This year, I had high expectations for the year, I was going to try a classroom completely built on respect and caring, where learning was the center, not behavior. So I threw out my ideas of rewards/non-logical consequences. I was also excited for some new curriculum and a new whole-school management program.

My optimism and enthusiasm for the year popped like a balloon barely through the first part of the year. It seemed everything to be hitting me at once, escalated/violent behaviors in the classroom, new curriculum that was harder to teach than I anticipated, not everyone being on board with our new management program. It all came down and I was ready to throw in my hat. The behaviors in my classroom specifically were incredibly hard to deal with, and it was overwhelming. I never thought I would have the thoughts of quitting over behavior, but those thoughts were real. I was unhappy with how things were going in my classroom, I wasn’t being the perfect teacher.

I finally realized I am not a perfect teacher, and I will never be. But I won’t stop trying, and I didn’t stop trying this year. I tell my students that I am still learning too, “I get many years in third grade, but you only get one, so I want to make it the best.”

There were good and bad times in my classroom this year that I will tell you about because being honest is important:

  • I took away recess for non-recess related things
  • I took up small, petty arguments with students about the most ridiculous things [then realized I wasted 5 minutes of my life arguing over a pencil]
  • I yelled
  • I did not model respect

There are other examples, and it hurts to remember the times above. I am writing this because I need to emphasize the point that I am not perfect, and I still have a long way to go. Should have I taken away those few minutes from that child’s recess? No. Should I have stopped to think first? Yes. Should I have done any of the above? No. So why did I do it? Because I am an imperfect teacher, and I am still learning how to become a better one.

But this year also gave me something else. As mentioned, I decided to give up on what can be referred to as “traditional classroom management” which includes clip charts/behavior apps/rewards, etc. And it was the best decision I have ever made. My classroom is a classroom that thrives off respect/care/community.

Let me highlight some positives that happened this year because of that decision. Among the biggest, I was able to address roots of larger problems and solve them accordingly. [Also, in order to protect student privacy, names/identification are omitted].

  • I have become a happier teacher, I am able to laugh, smile, and joke with my students
  • I am able to see them for who they are, a human, with real emotions and feelings, and not a clip with a name on the chart performing at “green.”
  • My students are free to be themselves
  • We have been able to solve problems as a class together
  • The students have more say in how the classroom is run, and thus I have more buy-in.
  • I have spent less time on behavior as a whole class, and more time teaching
  • I get lots of letters and drawings from students telling me how much they like our class, and I have gotten generous compliments from parents/guardians about how well their child is doing in my class, and how much their child enjoys coming to school
  • A student at the beginning of the year threw fits, wouldn’t complete work, and ran out of the classroom at least once a day. As of today, that student hasn’t ran out of the classroom since December, completes work, and is one of the classroom’s biggest helpers, and has since become a very caring individual.
  • A student who would backtalk, roll eyes, disrespectful, etc has been working extremely hard on respect and has become a more caring individual. This student even stood up for another student which made me very proud.
  • I have grown to truly love and care for all of my students. (The word love can be interpreted to mean many different things by many different people, so I am cautious to say this word to my students)
  • All of my students have grown in ways I couldn’t fathom.

I had some bad days, and I might have a few more within the 40 days. I recognize I am not a perfect teacher, and it is okay. I am learning and growing. I had some great ones, and I determined to have more of those, because I am ready to end this year strong so I can look back and say “that year was well worth it.”

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One thought on “40 days, and the freedom to be an imperfect teacher.

  1. You are an amazing teacher and I appreciate your honesty. I was lucky enough to have you as my child’s teacher and as a colleague. Keep being,you, Jeremiah

    Like

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