[I began writing this post on June 4th, 2010 while administering an exam.]
As I sit here and watch my amazing PreCalculus class take this final exam, I can't help but look back over my four years and be content. As a teacher, we focus on growth, we want to get and be better, but sometimes it's hard to track and notice. If you're like me, you have taught just about every class under the sun and haven't taught the same thing more than three times, so you don't have many scores to compare. If you're like me, you change how you teach something everytime, so there's not much room to compare there either. So, we live with what we see and notice and make assumptions and decisions.
[I hit save when I couldn't write anymore and now, on July 7th, 2010, I am finishing it.]
I've never felt growth. I've never felt like I've seen it. Until this year. The second semester, I had an interesting set of students, two classes of which, hated math. And, when I say hated, I mean HATED. Not the typical whiny, "I hate math." I mean, dreadfully, despise, loathe, never want to touch, hear or see it. It was painful [for all of us].
But, I learned SO much. I learned how to pick my battles. I learned that it was OK if I didn't get to every single topic required. I learned how to better relate to students. I learned how to help them with things other than math. I learned that some days, the math warm-up can just wait. They have more important life things going on that need to be dealt with. I learned to pick my battles. (I know I already said it, but it needed to be said again.)
My third class (we're on block) was absolutely amazing. I learned so much about them and myself and I learned to love teaching again. They were my light, they were my inspiration. I wanted to be better because of them. They worked so hard that it inspired me to be 100% prepared and ready every single day.
But, back to that growth thing. I've already blogged about the fight that I had in my classroom, in my third week of my first year of teaching. Looking back, I handled it how most 1st year teachers would (minus the fact I walked right up to it and tried to break it up). I balled my eyes out after it (what? math teachers cry? we have feelings?). I felt horrible. I felt like it was my fault. I lost it. "Why in the world did I decide to be a teacher? I'm crazy."
Well, I ended up having a similar situation happen in the last week before finals. The fight never happened because I diffused it. I literally talked the kid out of it. I saw it beginning, we went in the hall, we talked, I made the "call the front office" gesture to a fellow teacher and they came and got him. I held him back from going back in my classroom, I let him peel the paint off the wall to diffuse his anger and there was no fight.
I know this is a silly example of growth. But, it really hit me how differently I handled both situations. I would have never handled it that way in my first year. I didn't know better.
Now I do. It's a unique experience to visually see growth. I hope everyone gets the chance to see it. If you haven't yet, it'll happen.
I am so lucky to be in a position that I am. I love being in my classroom. I love being around my students. I can't wait for next year.
And, I've done absolutely nothing to plan for it this summer. I've needed a break.