Reflections From My Third Year of Teaching

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Balloons.  Streamers.  Confetti.  Glitter.  Maybe a little more glitter.
I’ve officially survived rocked my third year of teaching!  
Excuse me while I shake the glitter out of my hair.

I can’t believe it has already been 3 years since I began my journey teaching.  And it has already been 2 years since I walked across the stage with this fantastic group of people.  Time flies!

Now that we’ve gotten the celebrations out of the way, I thought it would be nice to share my honest reflections after my third year of teaching.  I’m going to share it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good

After feeling fairly frustrated with teaching (yes after two years) with all of the red tape, standardized testing, and other hoops to jump through I knew that I had to find my happy place.  For those of you who may not know, I unexpectedly left my teaching position during my second year of teaching to move to another school/district.

Trust me, I had a great reason, and you can read more about that [here].

That was the best decision I have ever made for my career – well besides going to grad school maybe.  By standing up for what I believe in I landed a job at my dream school.  The mister calls it Hogwarts…  And it truly is a magical place.  A school that values learning through play, project-based learning, developing the social-emotional aspect of children, has a chicken coop as well as a cow, pig, and goats, and I could go on, and on.  It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve found my place in education.

A surprising reflection from this year is the reduction in stress.  I was honestly so nervous to enter the world or private school, and I felt that I was going to be overwhelmed with pressure and helicopter parents.  I was wrong.  Yes, there was pressure, but what job is without pressure?  However the pressure was never like it was before – get your objectives posted by 7:30 AM, make sure you are working to prepare your First Grade students for the STAAR test, ensure that your children work at least 20 minutes EVERY DAY on the Istation reading program – none of that nonsense.  And the parents?  They’ve been fantastic.

This year I stepped out of my comfort zone and planned not one, but two project-based learning units.  I’ll be honest, I had never even heard of project-based learning before this year.  I think the units went well overall – but in reflection I know that I will do a bit more pre-planning for the units next year so that I can sit back and enjoy the ride.

I feel like I rocked math centers this year.  I finally have found a good balance of whole-group math lessons and game-based centers.  I saw huge growth, the kids had fun, and I can now say I’ve taught Everyday Math.  We adopt the latest version next year, so fingers are crossed it continues to be game based.

The Bad Not So Good

This was my first year diving into the writing world of Lucy Calkins.  While I have grown an appreciation for her approach to teaching writing, I know that this was not my strongest suit this year.  Looking back I remember having an “oh $#%@” moment and realizing my kids had not progressed quite to where they should be at that point.  We put things into overdrive, and I feel confident my kiddos are ready for First Grade – but I will definitely be looking/reading more about her methodology for next year.

Moving to a new school can always be challenging for forming relationships.  I landed on a great team, but I feel like we didn’t really get to know each other (much less teachers in other grade levels).  My goal next year is to branch out and get to know more of the teachers.

In trying to learn the ropes at a new school, I feel like I let my identity as a teacher with autonomy go somewhat.  No I didn’t become some robotic alien, as exciting as that may have been.  I guess this one is hard for me to put into words.  So lets just say that I plan on making sure that my voice/vision is apparent in my classroom a little more next year.

The Ugly Surprisingly Humbling

My school believes in handmade/teacher-made classroom materials.  No I don’t mean to say that we go into a woodworking shop and build our own supply caddies and whittle pencils from sticks…  Rather my school likes to see very little to no worksheets – and anything that may even be slightly thought of as a worksheet should have been made by the teacher.  We also don’t use a lot of cutesy stuff from teacher supply stores to decorate our classrooms.  In fact the only thing hanging on a wall in my room that is from a teacher store is the background for the calendar (yet the students make the actual calendar pieces each month) and a pocket chart for keeping track of days in school.

This was a hard pill to swallow as I embarked on my exciting new journey.  Here I am, Teachers Pay Teachers author, and my school doesn’t use worksheets or pages with lots of cute clip art.  Surprisingly this made me feel less pressure as I went through the year.  I didn’t have to spend time adding borders and clip art to anything I was making for class.  I didn’t have to spend loads of money buying borders, punch out letters, or poster.  I didn’t have to spend hours creating bulletin boards (because only student work goes on the walls – it is their classroom after all).  And guess what?  My kids still learned.

Do I plan to continue creating for TpT?  Of course.  My vision for what I can create has just been broadened.  And I’m very, very excited to begin creating more products that would still be acceptable at my school as well as others.

Thank you to my friend Greg over at [The Kindergarten Smorgasboard] for posting your reflections and inspiring me to do the same!

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