So That Happened

#IMMOOC Week 3 Blog Challenge

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years, so there are a lot of things I used to do that I no longer do for various reasons. Most of these are systems or procedures that I put in place to help me cope during the first few years of teaching. My father was an outstanding educator, and when I started teaching, he was an elementary principal, though the majority of his teaching had been at the high school level. This did mean that I had the very best resource a beginning teacher could possibly have at my fingertips. (He even bought me dinner frequently). Many of those systems or procedures were my dad’s, such as his classroom rules, which I still use today (Be Polite, Prompt, and Prepared. The alliteration alone should appeal to you).  But no matter what it was, almost all of them were geared toward helping me with classroom management and behavior issues.

Say What?

For my first year of teaching, it wasn’t really a first “year.” I was happy working for my university, and then I saw a Spanish teaching position posted in a district near where my husband’s Walmart management job was sending us. Sounds great, right? Sure, unless you consider the fact that it was October.  The school district was advertising for a full time Spanish teacher. It was October, but I didn’t care. I didn’t understand what that could indicate, so I applied for the job, got it, and suddenly found myself with 150 students total in my Spanish classes.  Yes, I said Spanish. If you follow me on Twitter, your head may be spinning with that information. Don’t hurt yourselves. It’s not a typo.  I am certified K-12 in Spanish and 7-12 in English, so in most districts, I taught Spanish. The only school where I haven’t taught Spanish is my current one (while that is something I used to do but don’t any longer, it isn’t the focus of this post).

It Really Did.

That first year of teaching was an eye-opener. I was given 30 textbooks that were 30 years old to use with my 150 students. This was a rural county school, so it had a diverse population of students.  While I had an amazing year for a first year teacher that ended with a major International Night put on by myself and my students (they gave me a dozen roses as a thank you), a lot of the credit for my survival goes to my dad.  The one thing he helped most with (other than my genetics), was the classroom management system I needed and used with my 7th hour class.  In fact, I hadn’t realized until I decided to take this blog challenge that my 7th hour classes, or my perspective on them, has changed.  What used to be the most dreaded class period of the day, mainly because both students and teachers seem to be the least interested in learning or teaching that hour, has become a favorite hour of my day.  Thinking back on that first year, I can see how far down this educational rode I have traveled, and it’s been quite the ride.  That first year, students in that school were ready to be out for the day by the time 7th hour rolled around.  The first month or so were especially tough as I tried to navigate the imparting of knowledge with managing student behavior (mainly misbehavior).  So what did I do? Called my daddy.  He gave me several things to try, and the one that worked the best was the good ole name on the board.

Are You Serious?

If a student disrupted class, the first time it happened resulted in my writing their name on the board in the upper right hand corner of the chalkboard (Yes, a chalkboard. You young pups may need to Google that.)   If a student whose name was on the board disrupted class again, then I added a check mark next to the name. After the second check mark was applied, then the very next offense would result in consequences more significant than me relocating that student to a different part of the classroom.  (Seating charts are another thing I have ditched along the way). While I don’t remember exactly what the consequences were that Dad and I devised for that year of my teaching, I do remember that it actually worked.  My class began to settle down and stopped constantly testing the newbie in favor of the occasional push back.

Hundo P (Teen Slang for 100%)

I am not quite certain when I dropped this particular strategy. Eventually, I grew in my craft, my ability to relate to the students, learned how to control the class without creating animosity or oppositional defiance, and before I realized it, I wasn’t writing names on the board or using seating charts.  During a recent PD at school, I noticed on a classroom board (white now, not chalk), that had the same type of square drawn in one of the upper corners, and a few names written inside that box.  Wow. After a brief trip down memory lane, I took the time to reflect on that practice. I have a feeling that the reason I am no longer needing that strategy while another teacher (maybe some of you reading this) still does is because of changes I have made with me. Changes to how I teach. Don’t be stuck in the mindset that it’s the students who have changed. They haven’t changed all that much. What has changed is my responses to their behavior, my teaching strategies moving from teacher centered to student centered, and my pedagogy has developed and matured.  I spent ten years of my teaching career not doing much professional development other than what was required by the state or provided by the district. I did not direct my own learning. I thought I was a great teacher who didn’t need to be off the island in order to improve. I didn’t like to be away from my students. While I know I was effective, impactful, and I challenged students while cultivating great relationships, I was missing the boat (or ship-it’s a PIRATE’s life for me now). I might have been at the top of my game in that district, I was not at the top of THE game. I didn’t have others of like mind pushing me to do better for my students. I wasn’t discovering all of the new strategies or research based practices. I wasn’t learning. I wasn’t connecting. I wasn’t growing.

Well, TBH, Bruh…

If you reflect on your early days of teaching and are still hanging on to all or most of what you used to do in the early years (unless you are still in the early years), then you do need to think about why you are still doing them. Some practices may not need to be tossed, but they should always be reviewed and reflected upon periodically. We don’t grow by standing still. If we aren’t exposed to other teachers, methods, practices, thoughts, criticisms, then how will we grow? If no one is pushing your ideas, your thinking, your methods, then are you growing? Are you doing anything innovating? How will you know? Don’t let the ship sail without you. Get on board. You’ll be glad you did.

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