Say What! Editorials
by Ms. LeSean Carey, M. Ed.
Last Friday, I finished my first 5. I successfully completed my first 5 years as an English teacher.As an English teacher, I believe in stories. Therefore, it was only right to reflect on my first five years of teaching through the many stories that shaped my experience.The first 5 is a time for celebration as the odds against a teacher in the first 5 years are stacked against success. The Atlantic published an article a year ago, entitled “Why Teachers Quit.” Amongst my teacher friends, it was the topic of discussion. The article revealed that:
40-50% of teachers leave in the 1st year according to a UPenn Education professor who was a former teacher.
15% leave in the first year.
So, the completion of my 5 years of teaching is truly a victory. So, this speech tonight is how to survive the first 5. I invite all of you to take a journey with me on what I learned during those five years.
1. Advocate for yourself. Make kind and firm requests. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Support may be finding a planning buddy, observing others, or being observed weekly. Don’t get hung up on looking weak, you learn by doing.
I stood in front of a classroom of 28 students and went over the course syllabus. Mid-sentence, a student raises his hand and shouts out, “I need to go to the bathroom.” I said, “just one minute, I’m finishing up now.” The student stood up in class and said “Bitch, if you don’t let me use the bathroom, I will piss in your trash can.”As you can imagine, I stood there stunned. I went home that day and decided that I will not be defeated. At the faculty meeting prior to school, I stood up to introduce myself and when I told the staff that I would be teaching 6 standard level English courses and I heard a snicker. I didn’t know that I had been stuck with the load that no one wanted. But, I learned more about teaching that year and the power of low expectations but the grace of having high ones.
2. Get a life. Find a hobby that does not require you to think or talk about teaching. BURNOUT is real and if you don’t find a balance, you will crash eventually.
This year, I began to teach a heavier load of English courses and was added as the Lead in the creative writing program at my school. I was on a team to write curriculum and I was meeting with many important stakeholders. As a way to get “fit,” I started taking a Zumba class once a week that turned into an obsession. Soon, I was doing Zumba twice a week, attending Zumba-thons and bringing dance into my classroom. I once used dance as a brain break and my students loved it. Those Zumba classes were my saving grace and allowed me to disengage from the grind of teaching.
3. Beat the parents to the punch. Get in good with the parents by learning to empathize with them (even if you disagree). Send frequent communications regarding your class, invite parents to see student work, send positive notes once in a while, and document electronically!
During back to school night, a parent looked at me and said “you’re the teacher…you don’t look like you finished high school.” That was an instant blow to my ego and sometimes parents can be more challenging than the students. But, you must get parents on your side and do it quickly. I’m not a parent but try your best to see things from their perspective and anticipate any pitfalls.
4. Personal relationships reign supreme. Put students first and find out their stories before you become obsessed with their learning style and scores on last year’s state test. Also, build those relationships with everyone in your school. Be mindful that each person has something to give.
I got a note this year from a student that simply said “Thank you for being nice to me.” This was a girl that felt out of place and it hung on her bitterly. The relationships I cultivated with my students was my primary focus and I knew that if I could connect with my students, I could help them flourish during the learning process. Personal relationships can be built by learning personal things that matter to people, remembering them, and constantly checking in. Personal relationships are not limited to students. Don’t forget your co-workers (custodial staff, other teachers, and yes, admin!)
5.Never stop being a student. This lesson is two-fold. Be sure to add to your professional toolkit. But MOST IMPORTANTLY, get into the mind of your students. Don’t be afraid to ask students what makes them tick and you won’t be too boring.
I ended this year with a play performance of “Romeo and Juliet.” For over a month, my sixth graders studied a middle school adaptation and rehearsed an interpretation of the play. As we studied, I remembered how much I loved this play myself and how the students lit up from doing a project. The key is not to be boring. Kids these days hate sitting and getting. My students loved the activity and were required to memorize lines and design costumes/props. It’s one that I won’t ever forget.
In conclusion, being a teacher means to give myself away.My heart, my emotions, my passion is tied into being the guide for others. When I stand in front of a classroom, my dreams and hopes are put there and the fear of choking is always at my elbow. But it’s when I teach, that my story is quietly revealed.
My take-away: Don’t be boring. Be cutting-edge. Forgive yourself. Form relationships. Have fun.
Contact Mrs. Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Classrooms Are Not Our Own?
by Mayreather Willis, Ed. D. S1-2014 Feb-March
Classroom design and set up is important to the soul and mind. Many teachers need to realize the classroom is NOT just our space. Yet, I won't go as far to say it is only our students' space. I only recently came to
believe it is shared space, while living in
Europe as an educator after visiting a
Realschule. I enjoyed the visit and this is
what learned. The administration taught
at least one class daily! I know- I
immediately thought just like you -
what a great idea for many reasons :).
Also I learned that in this Realschule,
classrooms belong to the students. It is
the teacher that change classes, move
from room to room. Their room, is a large
teachers' lounge, (pictured to the right).
As I entered the lounge I thought Wow-
whoa, don't know what to think about
this. Like many of you if the teachers’
lounge was my only given space I would
freak-out! I mean how does a teacher not
have their own classroom?! That would be like hot and no cold, a bank and no money, Angelina and no Brad! It just dosen’t seem right. Because it is my
right as a classroom teacher, right? Right, of course it is! So, what was I going to do with this reality that was working well, like a well-oiled machine. As I watched these educators engaged in multiple conversations among themselves, as I observed a knock at the door and when it opened there stood students, and the teacher called for two fellow educators that came and they stood at the door while conversing with students. I recognized that the reality is, our classroom is not our own, and nor is it the students, because this is not realistic. What is realistic is that it belongs to both, first and far most as a professional place. I thought the teachers’ lounge was organized for 45 teachers, when compared to some of the classrooms that I have visited, and seen. I’ve seen classrooms overcome by teachers' stuff! Rooms that were junky over cluttered in both space and walls. Which lead my train of thought to other professional offices, such as a doctor's office. If you educator visited a doctor’s office that was junky
over cluttered, you would think as I do that this place does not represent a professional place of business. Your first thought, as would be my own – I don’t want to be here. As you have, I’ve gone in professional offices and that space determined the level of interaction from me. This is when I realized the classroom is not my own, because what other space where people gather is more important than a classroom where both teachers and students need to feel they want to be there? Why because the classroom is not just yours, not does it belong to just the students. It is a shared space. So, de-clutter, and get organized. This is the time to do it, because let’s face it some of us are natural de-clutters and some of us need a little help. We are here to help! Start thinking now, as the school year comes to an end about what you have not used this pass year. Ok, two because some of you will surely say, she is nuts I might need that for the next group. So here's the measure - if you have not used it, at all in the past three years, let-it-go! Post your picture of your classroom to share, and go to the blog to post how you set up your classroom, de-clutter, and get organized as a teacher supporting teachers! And of course contact TOP about great ideas for getting your classroom de-cluttered into a place that inspires the soul and mind.
Call for Submissions
This I Know, about Teaching On Purpose Editorial
What discoveries have you made, that you just know that you know is our truth, as educators? What have you come to understand about yourself as an educator that has made a difference in your students' lives and your ownn? What do you need to become the educator you want to be? What words of wisdom do you have that could make a difference in the life of the hopeless, struggling, or need to leave this profession educator?
You are invited to submitt an edeitorial. Your submission must be 500 words or less, you must include a byline or pen, with your state. Submit your editorial on the contact page with "Editorial Submission" in the subject line.
I am looking forward to hearing from you!