Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Newbie Story

From the Star

So with the holidays getting near, things are getting super hectic. If it wasn’t crazy with the students being off their rockers because they are so excited about not only Christmas and getting a break from “so much work”, we have to try to balance Invention Convention, holiday activities, our everyday lessons and the dreadful FAIR. Wow, and some say teachers have a cake job. If only they knew!

We have been working on the Expository writing in Writers' Workshop for the last 3 weeks and, of course, all children work at their own pace. So I have some students who have been done since week one and then others who haven’t even finished their final drafts and begun to publish. So the question is what do you do with my accelerated writers. I asked the other teachers for ideas on what they do. They told me that they just have them write another piece, which would usually be a pretty easy task, but with the holidays around the corner getting them to finish the one piece and do it correctly has been a task. So I decided to let my students get into groups of 3 or 4 and create either a expository skit explaining something that they enjoy or a narrative skit. I thought it was a great idea because it gave the students a chance to work on their writing skills as well as work as collaborating. In the planning stage I figured the kids would get ideas of how other kids planned and they would enjoy the work at the same time. Now that's a novel idea - work and fun at the same time!

For the past week the students have been working on their skits and the day came for them to share what they had been doing with me. Well, as I am sure I have told you before, the assistant principal likes to pop in 2-3 times a week just to see what I am doing. When she walked in this time I had the students putting on a skit about the basics of soccer, so they were kicking a ball around as they explained the details of how to do each specific move. Let me just tell you the look on her face when she walked in was priceless. She had that look of “What the **** is going on!” So when the boys finished their play I had them explain to her what they were doing and what the purpose was. Of course I had a moment of panic at what they might say but they actually did a great job explaining the activity and how it helped with learning how to explain something. Well if that wasn’t enough for a day, not two seconds after she walked out the Principal came by to see our skits. Now let me just tell you she rarely comes in, so, of course, I was thinking, “Oh boy!” She stayed for the whole skit that was being performed so once the girls finished, they talked with the principal. She read the skit and they talked about the activity and, as usual, she just left the classroom without saying a word to me. So now I am stuck thinking to myself, did they both come in because they thought that it was a great way of learning or did they both come in to see what I was doing because they thought it was a horrible idea? Unless someone tells me differently, I thought that the skits were good. The students seemed to really enjoy it while learning all at the same time. It's hard to get better at your craft if you don't get any feedback. It's always nice to hear good stuff but actually, even if it's hard to hear, you really learn the most from honest feedback. Teachers, and administrators, seem to have a difficult time with that... Can't wait for the break - from the confused stressed out newbie

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Teaming is Hard Work!

From the Apple
You bring up so many feeling that I think new teachers have - trying to fit in even when you are new and trying to be a part of a team. Not an easy task!

Unfortunately principals don't have a crystal ball when they put teams together. Sometimes they put people together that just don't meld. Sometimes they put people together because they know that they really need each other but... teaming really takes work! Being the new person on a team is always hard because the other members sometimes have relationships - very deep relationships. They have found a way to work together and adding a new person means that everything changes. Teachers can be pretty famous for not wanting to change!

First of all, I would suggest that you really try to LISTEN. The people on your team really do know things that you don't. They have had several years to figure things out and you really could learn from their experiences. You may not always agree, but you should listen.

Second, I would continue to engage your teammates. Ask questions respectfully when you don't understand decisions. Ask if something has been tried before and why it did or didn't work. Get as much information as you can before you make a judgement. When you do make suggestions, don't worry that they get changed. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you quit caring about who gets the credit. It doesn't really matter whose idea it is. It matters what is best for kids. The rest, believe me, will take care of itself.

Lastly, some teams are simply dysfunctional. You may be on one of them. If that's the case, seek out other people in the school that you can trust and collaborate with. How is the Reading Coach or another beginning teachers or another teacher that teaches on your grade level or the Media Specialist? In every school there are people who naturally find each other and really enjoy working together. Just one "friend" can make all the difference. Just don't burn any bridges with your own team. You certainly don't want to be known as the "Drama Queen!"

When all else fails, keep your eye on the kids. That's why you wanted to be a teacher and that's what you will take with you this first year - memories of the children, your first class. Remember that you are on an adventure and you will learn a million lessons this year that will make you a better teacher next year. On a bad day, just remember to count your blessings!


From the Seed:

While teaching is a very collaborative profession I seem to be finding a little bit of trouble feeling this way as a new teacher. While I know that many of the teachers that I work with are experienced and often do have great ideas I find that my ideas seem to slip through the cracks. As I bring up new ideas to my pod I find that they often just ignore them or try to trump me with a better idea. I have also realized that when I do come up with an idea that they like that they will use it but change it in some way so that it is now different and no longer my idea. While the teachers that I work with may not even know that they are doing this, I am finding it very frustrating to even try to collaborate and plan with them. What I find to be the most frustrating about it all is the fact that my principal keeps telling me that I need to give more input and give all my great ideas. What she doesn’t know is that I have and I just keep getting shut down. For most this may be frustrating enough to want to quit giving advice, but as a new enthusiastic teacher I am determined to make my opinions known and promote collaboration between me and the teachers in my pod that will make the learning and environment the most successful for each child.

Any suggestions on how to share my new, maybe too enthusiastic, ideas with seasoned teachers? Any suggestions on not taking it personally when I seem to be ignored?