You're learning how it's done in this district, in this school system, in this school; you subconsciously and consciously compare and contrast your philosophies and approaches to teachers who make much of what feels like a clumsy, clod-heavy two-step look like a well-orchestrated waltz; you yearn to be fresh and innovative, yet learning and staying on top of the basics - assessing and grading; progress monitoring; learning new curriculum; gathering materials; running parent conferences - absorbs and sucks up precious brain energy and minutes of the day. You are not yet the teacher that you imagined in your pleasantly naive daydreams...
...and I think that's where the "magic" begins to happen - the transformation from being completely lost in the woods to beginning to follow the yellow brick road (pardon my overuse of fanciful references). I came back from Christmas break, feeling the night before as if the first day of school was (almost) starting all over again. I had ideas and had done some planning over break (though I'd taken my fair share of time directed to other personal interests), but it didn't feel like nearly enough. There was no way I would get all of my ideas sketched out and have all of the resources ready and in place.
I walked into my classroom, switched the lights on, and something was different. I felt far from perfect, but in place. My standards and expectations for myself were (and are) quite high, higher than I can fully articulate or envision, but I had also dropped expectations of being on top and knowing it all. This shift in perspective, however simple it seems, is not always easy to drop - but it turns a page in the book. I'm ready to keep reading, with a renewed sense of pragmatic, yet still idealistic, awareness.
When the going gets to be....well, not going...have the courage to abandon what doesn't work. This is one of my recent epitomes. The idea is not new and certainly nothing that I haven't encountered in other arenas, but the context of teaching changes the affect. Just one example of what could be a slew of day-to-day tasks - I had an idea for tracking formative assessments, using different neon colored index cards (representing different subject areas), and keeping these in a three-ring holder, small enough to tote around and pull out wherever I was assessing. I would assess homework and in-class activities using these cards, making notes on skills with which students still had not mastered. How I recorded notes wasn't wholly organized and consistent from card to card, and hence I was not going back to these index cards, as I should have, and following up on progress and skill development. Not to mention there isn't a ton of room, and I was having to spend time writing the format for each card.
Despite taking the time to purchase materials, punch cards, and make notes (not a complete waste of time), this genius idea just isn't working for me in the moment. I'm exploring other ways to assess and keep track of how to group students on a daily basis, with systematic organization and efficiency my top priorities. I've put aside the index-card system - it might come in handy for recording other types of notes or ideas in the future. For now, I won't feel like a "failure" for cutting the weighty strategy loose. I'll trudge on in new directions, and seek opportunities to learn and try new ideas. By sacrificing my tried ideas with abandon and not being afraid to pick up new ones, I'll do a better job planning for and guiding my students' learning, the one thing that should never be sacrificed and should be kept in the viewfinder, no matter where you are on that brick-laden road.