As August comes to a close, I am getting excited for a new year filled with teaching and blogging!
Last year was a challenging one for me. The politics and the stress that I felt in the schools made me sad. Whenever I sat down to write a blog, I felt as if I had nothing to say that would help.
So right or wrong I stayed silent.
This year, after a summer of rest and reflection I feel differently.
I am re-energized and determined to use my time and energy to advocate for teachers and kids. I want to to help teachers be excited and amazed by their students.
I am committing to regular blogging to support this cause and as my year unfolds I will find out exactly what ‘regular blogging’ means.
Today, I want to share some of my recent thinking that I hope will help you as this new year approaches.
Can you think of a time last year when you were trying to teach something and it didn’t work?
Did you ever wonder in that moment if you should abandon the teaching and save it for a different time?
Or perhaps you tried to dig deeper and figure out better ways to teach it?
Or perhaps you were like me and weren’t sure if you should teach it later or try it teach it more effectively.
I struggle with this every year. Not only do I struggle with it, but the teachers I work with ask questions that relate to this all of the time.
I wish I could give you an easy answer.
Actually, I take that back. I don’t wish that. Teaching is amazingly exciting because there are no easy answers.
The more truthful answer is that it depends. Every teaching moment is unique and there are times when it makes sense to teach it later and there are times when you want to try and teach it differently. The most essential things to do is to slow down and make this decision carefully.
Just recently I experienced that very kind of moment as a parent.
In a blink of an eye, my daughter, Ariana, turned 2 and 1/2 and she left my side to go to camp for two mornings a week.
Honestly, I was worried.
I was sending her to a camp for many reasons, but probably the most important ones were that one I wanted to teach her that she one could have fun without me and two I wanted her to trust other adults to take care of her.
You see, she has always been cautious of new people and new situations.
I predicted this would be hard.
To my surprise, she ran off the first day without a tear and seemed happy and engaged when I picked her up.
I had a feeling it was too good to be true.
The following week she was a bit grumpy before we left and by the week after that she was a weepy mess when I left her.
I heard from the teachers that on those hard moments she continued crying most of the day. On one of those days she finally calmed down, but at lunch time her fish sticks fell on the floor and the teacher told her she had to throw them away (The poor kid is used to being able to pick things off the floor and eat them)
Once again she broke down.
On one of those hard mornings as I peaked in the windows watching her sob, I realized that she wasn’t learning what I had intended.
I wondered if I was doing the right thing by sending her to camp. Sure, she needed to eventually learn how to be without me but was this the right time (after all she is only 2 and a half).
Rather than making a rash decision I thought, talked to others and watched her carefully.
She spent her days at camp playing in the dirt, going under the sprinklers and exploring recycled zoos with loving teachers.
After some thinking I was convinced it was the right time to teach it. I just had to find more effective ways to teach it.
We talked a lot about camp in the comfort of her own home. I was honest with her and told that camp would probably be a little bit of happy mixed together with a little bit of sad. We also compared camp to home and talked about the things that were different between camp at home: At home you can eat things off the floor. At school you cannot eat things off the floor…At home we don’t have popcorn to eat. At camp you do have popcorn to eat.
By the last week of camp she was doing much better.
I learned that a more effective way to teach Ariana was to notice her sadness but teach into it at a time that was less emotional (This is probably another good thing to keep in mind as this year approaches: Don’t always teach in the moment. At times, notice a need and teach it soon but after you and the student have a tiny bit of distance.
I hope this parenting story helps you to slow down in those hard teaching moments. I also hope it inspires you to find the most effective ways to teach your students.
Here’s to a great start of the year. May it be fun and full of learning at the same time.
Until next time,