Reflections of an Almost-Complete First Semester

reflections_1st_semester_blog

December 14, 2016

So we have about a week and a half until break. Our first semester doesn’t end until the end of January, so 2nd quarter is almost half done. I swear it was just September 2 weeks ago! (I’m sure other teachers feel the same way out there…) There have been a lot of learning experiences, for both me and my students.

I thought my plan was foolproof, and my students seemed to be intrigued about the idea of something different. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but now I think I have my answer. Knowing the different teaching styles and classroom management styles my students were used to last year, I think it sounded good theoretically. It was similar to what they were used to, but the one factor they didn’t anticipate was that I am a very tough grader, and this was something they had to get used to. I’m used to the difficult transition students face when coming from their Spanish 1 class. It’s not 1 anymore. It’s a whole new level of difficulty and I think sometimes students forget that this is a high school class even though they’re not in high school…yet.

So in processing this with my mom, I told her how things were going and she pointed out something so obvious, yet so wise. She told me her experiences as a parent when my brother and I were in school about how some teachers were sticking to what they knew, and while they were not doing the “latest and greatest” teaching technique, it worked. Sometimes better than these new techniques did. And she told me how she was bummed to see these really good teachers let go simply because they weren’t using the “latest and greatest” techniques even though what they were using was highly effective. She summed it up by telling me that sometimes you need to think about the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And I think that’s what I have to do here. Stick with what works. It may not be all cutting edge and it may be a bit more boring to the students, but the results speak for themselves.

I consider myself lucky to be where I am. I got this job 8 months out of school, have been in the same building, in the same room, in the same district for 13 years and counting. I can now say that I’ve been teaching for as long as my students have been alive. Crazy to think about it like that, but it’s true. I am also lucky in that my administration gives me the freedom to allow me to experiment like I did and not micromanage my teaching.

I rolled with the punches, and after a decent amount of feedback, realized it wasn’t working and changed to what I know worked. I think this was a valuable learning experience for all involved. My students were mature enough to give me constructive criticism about what was working for them on their end and what was giving them frustration. Their parents were equally flexible to let me try something new out, and, when it didn’t work, didn’t hold it against me, but appreciated the honesty.

I think this is best summed up with a quote from Thomas Edison that goes something like this: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” So now I know what not to do with students. As I said in a previous post, I think this technique could work well if you were working with high schoolers. But I think you also need to know your students. Are they mature enough to handle something so unstructured? Are they able to budget their class time wisely? These are things you should take into account before jumping in.

I’ll continue to update you on happenings in my class, both with my 1s and 2s. I think sharing my ideas are what helps us to become better as teachers. Hopefully I’ll give you some ideas for something that really works well with your kids and that they really enjoy. Also, feel free to share what your best ideas are that worked really well with your students. I can always get some new ideas to incorporate!

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