Now you know the Bad and the Ugly of my year. Let’s lighten up these blog posts with the Good. I am going to break this post in to a few different categories of good. Good things that happened. Good people. Things that made me feel good to help me get to the other side.
- Professional Development. Since July of 2015, I have completed 160 hours of professional development. No, my teaching certificate doesn’t expire until 2018 so I didn’t “need” to complete the hours before June 30. All but 6 hours of the professional development focused on geography. The time I spent learning helped empower me throughout the year. When I felt as if I couldn’t do this anymore, I would learn something new to try in my class. Sometimes it worked and others it didn’t but I had more tools in my toolbox. The professional development helped me create a larger learning network. The place I learned the most this year is through the South Carolina Geographic Alliance (SCGA). I am their groupie and go to EVERY session they offer. The SCGA has introduced me to a number of teachers in my state that I can work with and commiserate. This is a resource available to us for FREE. Through the SCGA, I learned about the National Geographic Certified Educator program which connected to me to teachers across North America. Other professional development I attended was through the Discovery Education Network, also a free resource. This group is like a big warm blanket wrapped around you on a cold morning. I also attended the South Carolina Council for the Social Studies workshops. Again, a great resource to connect me to local/regional teachers. Do you see the common thread to all of my PD? It’s the connection to teachers. It was so important to me to find other teachers to learn from, share with, and just people who understood.
- The People. Even in my darkest days this school year, I was able to seek out people who could help. Helping sometimes meant talking about anything other than school. Laughing just to laugh or listening when I needed someone to do so. Two people in particular were there for me this year. Our early morning chats, after school chats, and baked goods sharing helped me beyond measure. I was finding my community, my people. They know who they are and I love them both dearly for the camaraderie we shared. I just want to say thank you to Regina and Franklin. Your friendship means the world to me!
- The Book. See Me After Class, by Roxanne Elden, is a book I read after reading the NPR post “Hey, New Teachers, It’s ok to Cry in Your Car.” The article talks about the Disillusionment Phase that starts in about October and goes through Novemeber-ish. It’s a period when new teachers are full of doubt and can cause them to give up. It’s a real thing. I can vouch for it. I bought the book and decided to give it a shot. The book is filled with stories from Elden’s teaching career and the stories of others. Each chapter talks about real things that teachers encounter from “that parent” to grading to meetings. She offers practical advice. The book just made me think, “I am not alone thinking the way I am thinking.” “I can get through this.” Elden also has a Disillusionment Pack of emails you can sign up for. She will send you emails for about a month to help you get through the tough times. I found the emails immensely helpful. *Side note NPR’s article had so many comments from veteran teachers they published a second article, “Teacher’s Respond: Veteran teachers cry in their car too” If you know a new teacher or a new again teacher… I suggest giving them this book.
- The Students. Yes, they drove me crazy. Yes, freshman are hard. No, I wouldn’t have it any other way. All of my students were amazing in their own way. Not all were interested in geography. Not all of them were A or B or even C students, for that matter, but I loved learning who they are and who they want to become. It’s great to see the light bulbs turn on when they make connections. If you don’t like the students the job is impossible. It was something I questioned all first semester. In the end, it turned out I loved the students. I am a guide for them to help be able to navigate high school. This week, I had a reminder of how successful the school year was. I received an email from a parent in JULY (school has been out since June 3). The parent thanked me for all I did for her daughter. Her daughter was really taken by me and she wants to say thank you by taking me to dinner with the family when her daughter returns from summer camp. Wow, just wow. Yesterday, I received an email from a student after she checked her AP Human Geo scores. She thanked me for all the work I made her do and how happy she was that she made a 4 on the exam (4 out of 5). Her final message was she looking forward to spending her lunches in my room next year. I feel like Sally Fields receiving her Oscar. “You like me. You really, really like me!”
- Essential Oils and Meditation. This may sound like it is coming out of left field but as I felt anxious about the year, I used essential oils and meditiation to help calm me sleep. They worked. I specifically used a mixture of Bergamot, Lavender, and Frankincense in an aromatherapy diffusor in the evenings. I found that I couldn’t use it more than 30 minutes prior to me going to bed or it would put me to sleep. For meditation, I used an iOS app called Simply Being. I would do the 5 minute meditation shortly after coming home from work. I just needed a few minutes to center myself.
- Fun. I found the best medicine was fun. I am not the type of teacher who likes to stand in front of the room and talk. I like to move around, let the students be involved in their learning so I tried to incorporate as much fun as I could in to our day. We would do things like Speed Dating Vocabulary – Students dressed up as a vocabulary word and try to find their mate. Fun matters. Laughter matters. With fun and laughter you gain trust and the relationship of teacher and student forms.
I have said this many times and I will say it again. I learned more this school year than I have my last 10 years in Educational Technology. My third year teaching my principal said to me “I see you becoming an administrator.” I told her no because I was never leaving the classroom. She was right for a time… I did leave the classroom for district administration but the whole time I felt I needed to strive for something higher or try something new every few years. Now I know that need for something else was my inner voice telling me to go back to the classroom. I am home.
Here I come 2016-2017 school year!