As a teacher, I am constantly learning new things from fellow teachers, my students and life events that happen around me. There are days when I feel like I am not a good teacher or that I really messed up a lesson. Some days those feelings get so strong that I want to give up. But that is when a colleague or friend makes a comment or shares a story with me that seems to be similar to my own experiences. They help ease my wobble so that I don’t completely topple over.
Some of the biggest areas of teaching that I constantly struggle with are the following:
- How can I really get through to all students, not just the ones that pick up material the fastest or are strongest in math?
- What can I do to make lessons more enjoyable and fun for students?
- What activities can I incorporate in the classroom to create a more student-driven learning environment?
- How can I make a bigger impact on my students that they will carry with them even after they graduate?
- What changes can I make as an educator that will not only benefit me, but also my students?
I find it so easy to think of these things over and over again, but the everyday time crunch to get through a curriculum can easily hide those feelings. Grading tests, making copies and getting class started on time can easily appear to be more important than actually exploring ways to grow as an educator. While grading quizzes over the weekend for both my Pre-Algebra and Geometry students, I found myself thinking of a wide range of questions pertaining to their work.
- Did I not spend enough time teaching this topic?
- Were my students even listening when I taught this or were they too busy having their own conversations?
- Was this student absent when we did this?
- Why don’t they just read the directions? I tell them what to do if they would only read them!
- Do the other teachers get grades like this?
- Why don’t they study?
- How can I help them understand the mistakes so that they don’t make the same ones on their test?
Normally after a test or quiz is graded I hand them back and we go over all of the answers together. The students have their papers in front of them so they can follow along and see what mistakes they made and how to fix them. Some students don’t even bother to flip the page. If a student does pretty poorly on a quiz, I ask them to come in during their lunch period so that we can go over it together. When I was sitting with one student doing this, I asked him if he studied and what he did to study. He simply said he skimmed over his notes and checked his answers for the review. He admitted that he did not spend as much time studying for his test as his should have. As we went through the problems that he got wrong and made the corrections he seemed to understand the problems better. However I thought to myself, if I would not have specifically told him to come in he would have never been able fully understand his mistakes. Why don’t all students want to understand fully? Why do I feel like I have to force them to get extra help so that they can do well?
I don’t expect to ever have the answers to all of my questions as a teacher. In fact, I can only see my list of questions growing as I continue teaching. This is TOTALLY normal!! It is not something that only I am doing, but teachers everywhere ask the same questions. When I speak to my colleagues about students that we share I find that I am not the only one feeling some of the things I do. This really is helpful as a teacher. It gives us common interests and things to talk about. I can find ways to spin my questions in a positive way that can help me grow and learn as a person. Learning from colleagues helps ease my wobbling. I will never feel completely steady when it comes to teaching, but being surrounded by awesome teachers who get it definitely helps!