Reflective Teaching Day 29: How I’ve Changed

How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

Oh my goodness! I’m only in my 4th year teaching, but it’s incredible how much I’ve changed! The biggest thing, as you’ve probably figured out if you’ve been reading my blog for a few days, is the huge change in what and how I teach. Rather than focusing on grammar and vocabulary, I have moved to a more proficiency-based system. My grades place student at proficiency levels which, to me, are much more important than the number or letter attached to them. I’m still working on convincing my students to care more about the level than the letter, but we’ll get there.

I’ve also more or less stopped overtly teaching discrete grammar in favor of comprehensible input and stories that repeat grammatical structures over and over again until students learn them naturally; the way they learned English. I still have tons of questions about how this is supposed to look in an ideal world, but I’m confident that I’ll figure it out as I go along. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. One which will definitely be forthcoming now that the 30 day challenge is nearly over.

But in addition to all that, I think I’ve changed as a person, both in and out of the classroom. I’m definitely growing in patience (although I still wouldn’t say that I’m a patient person per se), and I’ve realized a few things:

  1. My students aren’t nearly as lazy as they sometimes seem. This is something I hear a lot from a lot of teachers. And certainly there is a grain of truth to it – some kids want to do things the easy way, even if it means not learning as much or getting the A that some kids would kill for. But much or most of the time, I think my students lack confidence more than they lack work ethic. They’re confused, embarrassed, or generally disillusioned with the whole process. I’m realizing that so many students have “learned helplessness” when it comes to school; they’re expected to be C students and they’re basically rising to the bar that’s set for them. They’ve tried in the past and, for whatever reason, have not been as successful as they wanted to be or felt they should be. And so they content themselves with doing as little as they can get away with. But if I can get them to succeed, maybe I can help them realize that they can do it. So one of the things I’m working on this year is getting to those kids – helping them realize that it’s OK to be wrong and how to learn from their mistakes, their confusion, and difficulty in general, and that ultimately, failure can lead to success.
  2. Getting angry doesn’t really do much for anyone. I started to realize this on my Awful to Awesome day, and it really ties in with #1. If I’m frustrated or upset with my students, chances are they’re also frustrated or upset with something in my class. So rather than getting frustrated and letting it build up, hoping that they’ll “decide to try” or something like that, it’s much better to have an honest conversation about whatever’s going on. It may be time for another of those in Spanish 2, which has been, hands down, my most difficult and frustrating class this year. But if I stick with it and get through to these kids, it will be a huge win for me.
  3. Every kid really is different. I have a few students who, despite my continued prompting, never really take notes. And truly, those kids have difficulty spelling anything correctly. But they can pretty much hold a conversation. It’s amazing to me how much some of my students pick up just from listening and watching me. Of course, I still wish they’d take notes for reference later on, but I’ve decided to stop worrying about it so much.

I’ve changed a lot over the last 4 years, but I think the most exciting growth is still ahead of me. I’ve got a lot to learn, experience, and figure out. It’s going to be quite the journey, but I’m looking forward to the trek!

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