So one of my biggest struggles is finding time as a teacher for all the little tasks that need to get done. My wife Katie always reminds me that I can never do anything halfway. I’m always 110% all-in on whatever it is that I set my mind to. That said, I’ve begun to realize that sometimes I need to slow down, maybe not take on so much, especially early in the year when I’m still learning the nuances of my classes, my new school, etc.
Thus the first three weeks of the year are in the books, and I still at times feel like I am barely treading water. This week was especially tough. Between coaching football, handling all of my gamification mechanics, working through tech solutions, making those positive phone calls home, and trying to give quality feedback on student work, something was bound to be lost in the shuffle. This time it was my classroom management. While 95-97% of my students were highly engaged in the lessons and research they were working on with their groups, it was those 3-5% that grabbed my attention and made me feel like an ineffective teacher.
If you’ve ever been in my class, you’ll know it’s not going to be the perfect, Pinterest class. Desks and chairs are often moved into random groupings, students can be heard talking loudly with classmates about the project/assignment (and yes, sometimes about off-task things), and in general, it looks like the epitome of “Learning is Messy”. Sometimes I need to remember that middle schoolers will occasionally get loud in their learning, and that I need to remember that loud does not always mean wrong. It might be a passionate discussion about the project, where ideas are flowing back and forth and the students don’t realize their volume is increasing with each exchange.
To top it all off, I was busily trying to read through their “States’ Position Summary & Analysis” papers to prepare for our Constitutional Convention Simulation on Monday. As I read through several of them I came to realize that a few students would need some reteaching, and that our simulation will likely involve brief conversations to allow students to revise their responses to the choices they will ultimately vote on as delegates to the convention. This adds a new layer to our work and may require a shift of activities to an additional day. While frustrating at first (I was truly perturbed by my plans having to change), with some time to reflect, I can now see the opportunity for powerful small group conversations on Monday, which may lead to even deeper reflections from them as part of our simulation.
Ultimately, exhaustion is at a peak right now, but the energy and excitement is still there. A bunch of sidequests have been submitted, students are enjoying the chance to revise work and resubmit it to move closer to proficiency/mastery of standards, and I am struggling at times to keep up. It’s been a great reminder that you don’t always have to go “all-in”. It’s worth it to spend a little more time enjoying the process, a little less being worried about all the items on the to-do list.
Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out Eric Falls. Eric is a 7th grade Social Studies teacher at Summit Trail Middle School and has been huge in helping me transition not only to Olathe, but also to standards-based grading and to remind me that my ideas and lessons are well-designed, even when I am sometimes unsure of the possibility of success for my students. Eric has some awesome geography and Kansas history lessons for his students, including great technology integration with the G-Suite. Follow him on Twitter @eric_falls.