Equipped with my love of science and passion to reach every single student every single day, I accepted a position as a full-time high school Biology teacher.
Quickly I realized that this is, indeed, where I belong. Sharing my knowledge of science and enthusiasm for learning did not feel like working at all; going to school in the morning was my distinct pleasure. Joyfully I filled my days with slide presentations, videos, posters, construction paper, markers, and glue and my nights with grading, researching, and planning. I eagerly devoured any and all professional development opportunities which I used to inform my practice resulting in more lab activities, projects, and new methods of sharing information about science. I was having a blast!
My prior teaching experience with my sister, Winnie, Barbie, and Tiffany paled in comparison to the satisfaction of a room full of human students.
At the end of each day, I sat and thought about my day. I did not plan for this time to be for meaningful reflection but as I simply sat utterly spent with my head resting atop my crossed arms on my desk and my thoughts naturally trailed off to what happened during the day. First, my mind wandered to the things that did not go as planned and as a new teacher there were lots of them!
I noticed the rough patches and places where students fell through the cracks.
- New vocabulary may not be new to everyone and maybe too complex for others
- Taking handwritten notes does not work for students who think in images or prefer other representations
- Kids who did not do homework were asked to stay for extra help after school or some other punitive action
- Dipsticking gauges the whole class progress but individual students struggle with the pace
- Students who do not know the vocabulary may not understand many of the concepts
Once I acknowledged the bumps and cracks, I realized that there were just as many – if not more times – when everyone stayed on track. There were even days when we all traveled as a team and exceeded my goals. The more days I spent sitting exhausted wondering what I could have done differently I found what I should be doing is more of those good things that built a strong team. So I began to look for patterns.
Daily reflection was the first practice that I decided that I must continue to do with purpose. I reserved 15 minutes at the end of each day to sit quietly and reflect on my own effectiveness, student engagement, and enjoyment.
During these reflections I found
- Students work best when they aren’t being evaluated
- I teach best to small groups
- Students learn best in small groups
- Students learn best when they are engaged; engagement increases with ownership
- Every student is doing the best they can right now.
- Every student can do better with time and support.
Those first few years reminded me that the biggest reward comes from the most challenging journey. While there are times when I have chosen the easy route, I am always most satisfied after I have decided to blaze a new trail into uncharted territory.