Growing Pains

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I am having a difficult time with some things right now. I’m struggling with some confidence issues, some basic classroom management issues, and I am feeling like there are some integral parts of teacher education that I am somehow missing. Teaching has become a bit of a struggle. And then to top it all off, I have homework, lesson planning, and a thesis to get off the ground. The next few months may not be pretty.

Ever since coming back from Winter Break, I seem to have lost my confidence in my teaching abilities. I second-guess myself, I am self-conscious, and I feel like I can’t seem to get anything right. It’s frustrating. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first one, I think, is that I spent so much time doing a lot of teaching last semester and then took a sizeable break. In the two-week break, I had a lot of down time and spent almost zero time working on my lessons or anything. I needed the break, mentally and physically, but I should have tempered that need with some lesson planning as well. It has created a very large gap in where I should be at this point. I know my cooperating teacher notices, which makes me feel even guiltier. She told me this morning that she thinks we need to go over my lessons before I teach them more carefully. She’s right. I think we probably should have been doing that all along. Another reason I am having issues is that I feel like I am unable to really implement what I want to accomplish in the classroom. That’s partially my own fault for the inability to bring across what I want to, and partially it’s my inexperience (which might play into the former part). I also think that it has a large part of my reticence to view the time I am teaching as my time. To clarify, I am not quite feeling as if I make all of the decisions regarding teaching these students, and in effect, I am not. I still feel the need to check in while teaching, to make sure I am doing it right. I need to trust myself more, perhaps.

I want to make the classroom a meaningful and thought-provoking place for the students I am about to inherit for a couple of months, but I am still grasping at straws as to how to do that. I often feel as if my mentor teacher is not truly working toward meaningfulness, but is giving the students busy work. Much of what the classes have done this year has been successful, but I wonder how much critical thinking is really occurring. And the big question here is how do I make every assignment an opportunity for critical thinking?

I have a general idea of what I want my classroom to look like, the logistics of things, the norms I expect of students as a community, and who I want to be as a teacher. But I am faltering at the implementation of these things. I hesitate to try some things because I worry about the buy-in factor with the class. After having been in the same room for four months now, these students have set expectations already. Will they balk if I implement new ones? My mentor teacher has been teaching for 16 years, and it’s her strategy to fix issues as they come. She doesn’t have norms written anywhere, posted anywhere, or referenced for students. But they do know what to expect from her. That is not a strategy that will work for me. I know that as a new teacher, I will need to be more direct and clear about what I expect and when. But how do I go about doing that without alienating the entire class? I am still figuring that out.

There are so many social dynamics in a classroom that I never realized, having always been on the student side of the room. The class appears very different from the teacher side. Not only that, but there are a lot of social dynamics I have to adhere to in regards to my colleagues and mentoring teacher. I truly have to relearn how to interact with others.

<<I want to preface this long paragraph that follows with a caveat. Although I am in effect complaining about what is missing from my education, I realize that learning these skills falls to me. I understand my own responsibility and accept it. I am merely trying to come to an understanding regarding what I feel are the gaps in my own education, and working toward filling them.>>

As far as my own teacher education goes, I am feeling a few pieces missing recently. I am concerned that I haven’t had enough nuts and bolts education (i.e. EALRs, GLEs, teaching practices, classroom management).  Although I did have a unit on classroom management last semester, I feel as if there is so much more to know. I guess I was hoping for some models in action of classroom management to compare and contrast for my own personal edification, but maybe I missed that. I feel that in my methods class, I really needed more instruction on the various methods we read about, rather than other students teaching the material. I understand and appreciate the pretense behind having us teach each other, but I really would have benefited more from the professors giving more guidance on it. The technology class was really a big source of frustration for me. I think I could have gotten what I took away from it in a 4-hour workshop. I still don’t know how to work a smartboard, am still learning how to work a document camera, and found the assignments we were given to be relatively useless. Perhaps that is a scathing review of it, and maybe I misinterpreted the purpose of what the class was supposed to be about, but the majority of the candidates know how to use much of the things that were taught. I would have liked to have opted out of it. I guess I am feeling that I need more critical thinking and more in-depth instruction of my own. Although the focus of the program is to encourage me to think in terms of a teacher, I am still at a point of needing guidance. More critical thinking and in-depth analysis of teaching and the practice thereof would make this experience more meaningful to me.

I am trying to make an effort of reflecting more on where I am at mentally and emotionally. I’m also trying to reflect more on why I feel the way I do, and the processes of what I am doing. I hope this can be another start to this blog.

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2 responses »

  1. I’m sorry to read what you’re going through. This is suppose to be a learning experience so you are not suppose to be too full of confidence. Of course, this is coming from someone who has yet to go through it. I’m still a few months away.

    I am concerned by what you write because I’m tapping into the things you write about to give me an idea of what’s coming up for me.

    Good luck. Chin up. I had a good experience with my technology class. I sent you some links a while ago. Some of them could be really useful for your classes.

    • I hope I’m not scaring you too much!

      I do have to say that not everything is a bad experience. There is so much good that outweighs the bad, in fact. I will try to remember to temper my blogs about the hard stuff with some of the great, inspirational stuff going on, too. That’s for reminding me that it’s easier to complain than it is to praise!

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