“that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts on the inside and radiates to the outside.”
As many of you know, this has been a school year of big change for me. I went from being a homeroom teacher to a push-in basic skills teacher. HUGE CHANGE! It wasn't something I asked for or wanted but something I was assigned. So, come September I went into this new position with a positive attitude and hopes for the best.
It is now February and in those few months I must be honest and say it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me. Going into this new position I really had no idea what to expect. I have spent the past decade or so in a self-contained classroom working with high ability children. I now travel from room to room working with children who are at the other end of that spectrum. Sometime around mid-November, I realized that I had lost my enthusiasm for what I do. I truly felt that what had once been a career that I loved had become a job that I do.
But, let me tell you what didn't cause that. It wasn't the children. When you work with high ability students as I did for many year past, you see that they rarely believe there is something they don’t know. And when they do run into the unknown they don’t hesitate to tackle it with the belief that they will achieve. Those are not my kids this year.
Working with students who have limited success in literacy has been a challenge and a treasure. In fact, working with those children is what has kept me going. I love teaching these children. I love helping them realize they are readers, that they can answer those tough questions, that they do have a lot to say about what they are reading. I spend so much time thinking of different ways to teach them that skill that just doesn't seem to be clear. I love finding new ways to show them that they can do this. I love the look on their face when they understand that I ask for more from them because I believe in them. I believe that they can do more, and if they can’t I will do everything in my power to help them. I love when they start to believe in themselves and see themselves as capable learners. Working with my new friends this year is the best part of every day and I continue to give 100% of myself in teaching these children.
So, if I love working with my new friends so much,
how did I lose my teaching mojo?
This new position has been a huge adjustment for me. A change I thought I would manage with no problem. After all, I have always been one to embrace change. Change brings growth. I was prepared to happily grow in my new position. It didn't quite happen that way. Below are a few of the issues that became personal obstacles I didn't expect to impact me as they did. Some are silly while some are more substantial. There are a few other more complex issues that I've chosen not to write about for privacy reasons, but I think those below are enough to make my point.
Not having a Home: I travel to several different classrooms in the course of a day. I pull along a cart everywhere I go with the supplies I need for each class. Of course, it never has all I need. When working with a friend, I may suddenly think of another way to teach the skill but not have the manipulatives or chart I need with me. So frustrating! I do still have my old classroom, but only get there on my prep period. Other than that, I'm in other classrooms.
Multiple Teachers = Multiple Lessons: I teach across two grade levels in two subjects. Some days I am repeating the same lesson in different classrooms and some days I am doing a different lesson in every class. I think the issue is that I travel from a literacy class in one grade to a literacy class in another grade and from a math class to another math class in the same grade. It’s rare that my classes are doing the same thing on the same day. There is very little time between the classes, and it makes it difficult to switch gears so quickly.
Meshing Teaching Styles: I work with teachers who couldn’t be more different in their teaching styles. I tend to be more organized and like to have clear expectations of my students. I also like to joke around with my students to a degree. But, every teacher is different. Some teachers are much more relaxed and embrace a degree of chaos while others are very structured and don’t allow for a lot of “embrace the moment” within the classrooms. My teachers tend to fall all over this spectrum! It’s challenging to travel from room to room where the expectations and atmosphere are so different. To be clear, I am not saying good or bad. One teaching style is not better or worse than the other. It’s just different and as a teacher traveling from room to room, I feel I have to constantly adjust how I behave in each room so that I mesh with my teachers.
Extra Strength to Mild: I like having a core of students, one homeroom class, that I can work with all day. When you have a class for the whole day, your teaching doesn't stop. You are not just teaching a subject, you are molding a child. It comes from being with them all day, connecting on a deeper level, and having the ability to guide and teach in all aspects of the day. It’s like your students get the “extra strength” version of you. Now, I sometimes feel as if the impact I could have has been diluted by seeing my students only a period or two a day rather than being with them all day. Does that make any sense?
Not Being the Decision Maker: I can offer suggestions, but ultimately what happens in the classroom is up to that homeroom teacher. I can think one way to teach something will be (in my opinion) more effective for our students, but if the homeroom teacher doesn’t agree it isn’t going to happen. If I were co-teaching with one teacher all day long, I am sure this would not be a problem. In those situations, it is your (plural!) class. You are truly co-teaching. However, when you are in a classroom for a period here and there each day you just don’t have the say. And, I get that! It’s not my classroom. I come and I go. My teachers are great at doing all they can to make me feel welcome and a part of the classroom, but ultimately it is their classroom and I respect that. Nevertheless, it can be frustrating at times. I would even say that the overall loss of control of what I do has been the hardest of all for me.
Being Tied to a Strict Schedule: Since I travel to different rooms, I have a schedule that would make airports jealous! The only difference is my flight always leaves and arrives on time! I have a schedule that demands I am in each room for a certain amount of time and then move along to the next class. There’s no extending a lesson because we are having a teachable moment. I have about five minutes between classes and have to get there. I can only plan lessons that can be done in a certain amount of time. I miss having some flexibility in my schedule.
Not Teaching All Subjects: One of the things I loved about being an elementary teacher was the variety in our day. I enjoyed teaching all subjects. Okay, let's be honest. Maybe not science so much! But, I loved the variety. I now have limited variety within my day. I'm teaching either reading or math. I love teaching reading and would love to do it all day long if I had more control over how I do it. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how much I miss teaching all the subjects in the course of the day. One of the things I miss is being able to integrate subjects and do cross curricular projects.
I Miss Special Projects: I don’t get to do the fun stuff anymore. If the school is making cards for the soldiers or we want to do something fun for a holiday, I’m not in the room. I visit two of my classrooms for just a guided reading period. That time is used for that. If something fun happens, it happens at some other point in the day. Understandably, the teachers want to take advantage of having two of us in the room and don’t schedule those kinds of things while I’m there. I miss that!
I Want to Decorate A Classroom: I told you some of my issues were silly. But, I really do miss decorating a classroom. I was in a local teacher store this past weekend picking up some things for the giveaway coming up, and I was dying to buy some new borders and posters. But, I just have no need for them now.
So, how did I get my teaching mojo back?
It was easier than I knew. I simply realized that I had to focus on what I can control, what I can do, and what is going well. My work with my new friends continues to be the best part of my day despite all the constraints. I am lucky to work with great teachers who do all they can to make me feel welcome and a part of the class. I've gotten back into blogging. When I lost my teaching mojo, I also lost my teacher blogging mojo. If I wasn't excited about what was happening during my school day, how could I come here and be excited to share? Once I decided that I needed to turn things around, coming back and seeing that many of you stuck with me despite my irregular blogging was a major bright spot!
So, in the end maybe I found my teaching mojo by putting an end to the pity party and realizing it was up to me to make the best of a new situation, to make the best of each day. And once that decision was made, I've happily been rediscovering “that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts on the inside and radiates to the outside.”
On a total aside, is it terrible and tacky that I want to limit the upcoming giveaway to followers of my blog? Is that a blogging no-no? I just want to do something to thank those that were here even when I wasn't. By the way, adding word verification to my comments seems to have solved my spam problem! This means I will probably have the give away up sooner rather than later. :-)