Thursday, May 25, 2017

End of the Year Thoughts...

This is the 17th time I have ended a school year as a teacher. Actually it is my 18th, if you count my student teaching experience. I have spent nearly an equal amount of time teaching at public schools as I have private Christian schools, and there has been a wide variety of types of schools in each of those two categories. I think I may have learned some stuff about teaching, but I still feel like a rookie most of the time: like I still have a lot to learn.

As this year ends, I thought I would share a few thoughts from my years as a teacher (and specifically this last year):

Thought #1: 

The School year goes by more and more quickly with each passing year. 
I know that this is true in all situations, not just in teaching, but this past year has just flown by. I honestly feel like I just started a few weeks ago. Of course, it doesn't always feel that way in the middle of it, but once I get to the end... woosh!

Slightly off topic, but in my mathematical opinion, I believe that the reason for this is because each year of your life that you live, that year becomes a smaller percentage of your entire life. For example, when you are one year old, a year is 100% of your life, but by the time you are two, a year is only 50% of your life. When you turn 10, a year is only 10% of your entire life experience.

After my first year of teaching, that year of teaching was 100% of my entire teaching experience. I would look at that year as my entire experience. This year of teaching only comprises approximately 5.8% of my entire teaching experience. The way I looked at one year, at the end of my first year is hugely different than how I look at one year of teaching now.

Thought #2:

Kids are kids... 
I can't tell you how much I have said this in this last year.

I just switched to Danville High School this past year. The previous seven years I was at a smaller county school, so switching to Danville was a bit of an adjustment. When I switched schools, I wasn't really looking for a change, but someone contacted me and told me I ought to apply. I started to, but didn't finish my application, and then someone from the district called me. I went in for an interview and, next thing I know, I am a teacher at Danville.

Here are two of the deciding factors...

One, I live in Danville. Funny story: I didn't realize it, but one of the "year book staff" asked me why I came to Danville High School. My response had to do with living close to the school. I was mostly referring to the fact that I am a Pastor at a church in Danville, and it makes more sense for me to be here than to be teaching in Georgetown, but the only part of that interview that was put into the yearbook was, "It is closer to my house."  Of course all of the other new teachers had wonderful, inspiring responses in the yearbook as to why they came here... "I love kids." "I want to make a difference in the lives of students." etc. But no, not me: "It is closer to my house."

The other reason I wanted to come to Danville is because I actually had someone tell me, when I was talking about switching, "... you want to teach those kids?" Can you believe that?!? Umm... Yeah! That made my decision. I guess that Danville High has a reputation for being a little rougher... but that just is not the case. Kids are kids wherever you go. And these kids aren't any worse than any other kids.

In fact, I saw a little more dedication from these kids than I have seen at some other schools that I have taught at. I had some really hard-working students that were focused on making it through their math class. And they did what they needed to do (many without support from home) to make sure that they passed.

Next year I get to teach an AVID class. I don't know exactly what this is like, but the students that I had that were a part of AVID were dedicated to helping each other get through to the end. When I was asked if I wanted to be an AVID teacher, I said yes for these reasons.

If you asked me right now if my first year at Danville was a good experience... I would say, "definitely YES." In fact, even though I graduated from First Baptist and my wife graduated from there and my two sisters graduated from there and my oldest son is graduating from there tomorrow... I have thought about putting my younger son in Danville High. It is really a decent school with a great faculty that are trying to do an amazing job at teaching these children.

Thought #3:

I'll do better next year.
I think that at the end of every year, "I'll do better next year." I start thinking about all of the mistakes I have made this year, all of the weaknesses that I have seen in myself, and I start thinking about what I can do to fix that.

I also think about the things I did well and the things that "worked" and I try to solidify those things in my mind so that I can improve on those things and enhance what actually worked.

I genuinely believe that the best teachers are the teachers that are constantly changing and adjusting their methods. It doesn't do any good to say, "this is how I've always done this." or "this was how it was for me in school." or "kids these days just don't know how to learn."  Maybe it is that YOU don't know how to teach the kids these days. The world has changed, kids have changed, I even think that, because of the saturation of technology in our lives, the wiring in their brains has changed how they think and understand new concepts.

I hope that I keep growing and changing how I teach, for as long as I teach.

Thought #4: 

Common core is not a bad thing.
Ok. Seriously people. It isn't that big of a deal to begin with. I can't speak for the other subjects, but math is still math. I still teach Geometry. Algebra I is still Algebra I and Algebra II is still Algebra II...

Most of the things that I have seen people griping about are the techniques that are being taught to the children. But there has been a variety of techniques that have been taught since education began. In fact, if you go back to how some basic arithmetic was taught just 100 years ago, they had some really weird techniques. Google it. Funky stuff.

Honestly, if for no other reason, Common Core is good because it is attempting to thoughtfully put together what students ought to be learning by different stages. And with the huge amount of movement of students from school to school and from district to district, having a unified approach is good for the kids.

Anyway... These are the four most predominant thoughts I had as I sat down this morning and reflected over the last year.

If you read though this entire post... Thanks!

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