Teachin' Spanish For America

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 09 2012

Teaching in 2012: Lots of thoughts

I think my resolution this year is to live intentionally. I want to erase those moments of cool irony from my life–I think it takes a lot of courage to announce your passion for the world, to embrace it and its wonder. It is easier and safer to be cynical and jaded. But if more people lived their lives with joy, and lacked shame for the things that move them, I firmly believe it would be a happier place. I hope you notice a difference in me as I take on 2012 with you.

So that, friends, is my resolution for this year (as seen on Facebook).  I think a mini-resolution is to update this more often, as I think it will help me with my real resolution.  When I spend time on this site, it reminds me to power through the tough things because I’m here for a purpose that I believe passionately about.

I think that’s a pretty uplifting way to start this update, no?  Unfortunately, I don’t know if I’m actually in such a positive place when it comes to thinking about my teaching.  Rather than rehash again (redundant), I think I’ll just copy and paste a letter I sent my MTLD this morning (at 4:45, when I had already been awake for an hour…or two).  Enjoy, and I’ll leave some more words after it.  It’s not my proudest moment, but it’s how I feel:

With [my resultion] in mind, I wanted to fill you in on my break.  My plan this break was, essentially, to read up on everything I could get my hands on to help me come into 2012 with a reset in all my classes–reteach some procedures, including a new one I’ll talk about more in a minute, but especially to redo my curriculum, which I feel desperately needs it.

What I actually did this break was read Kite Runner and clean my house. As I woke up obscenely early this morning to do some last minute things with none of my break goals even attempted, I wondered what went wrong.  The reason I am telling you this is because you have been the single most helpful resource for my teaching that I have been gifted with during this year.  I’m sure you’ve noticed more than one occasion, however, where we seem to agree on a course of action or something that I need to work on, and it simply hasn’t happened.  I’m left wondering about that follow through in the same way that my plans for break have exemplified.
I think that I fear the follow through and lack the courage to take the kinds of risks in the classroom that I need to be an excellent teacher.  I think that kinds of changes that I need to make involve experimenting in a way that leaves me open for failure in a big way.  Though my ego is certainly part of the stake here, more so I fear risking and failing with and in front of my kids.  I don’t know what that will do to the dynamic of the classroom and to their education.
I also fear the parameters that are set up by TFA and [graduate school] and [my place of emplyment] which I KNOW are there to help me and keep me accountable.  I’ve not been very good at data tracking, but I also don’t know what it will look like if all of a sudden I’m taking out large chunks of my curriculum.  The direction I want to go in is like “exit ticket” driven and more final-assessment non-traditionally assessed (I’ve decided this after input from [a person who is helpful] and reading up some on the matter).  But that means that my TFA tracker might look wacky for a while and I DEFINITELY need to talk to [grad school teacher] about my [grad school] trackers because that’s just not going to look right at all.  But I guess my point is this kind of deal is holding me accountable, yes, but in a paralyzing rather than empowering way.  I know this is pretty easy to fix because these negative connotations are not the intent of these tools, but I thought you might want insight into the mindset I’m coming in with.
So, in a way, I think it was good that I “wasted” my break (although I wish I had set aside the TINIEST amount of time for lesson planning).  I went to the doctor for the first time in like 6 years. But I also thought about my kids every single day and I’m recognizing that I don’t want to feel guilt when I picture their faces.  I want to do the overturn that I was planning, but I think I should do it more slowly, with more input from excellent resources like you, like [person who is helpful] (who I actually haven’t been able to get a hold of in some time), and like [grad school teacher] and the [grad school] team–as well as TFANet.  I guess my professional resolution is in fact to use my resources and not be afraid to ask for help.
Sorry this email is pretty much Anna Karenina length.  With all of the above in mind, I’m wondering if you want an hour or so sometime during this week or the next that you would be willing to sit down with me and look at my Unit Plans and pacing, compare them to that of [nearby charter school with decent curriculum] and [person who is helpful], and help me to consider how to modify everything to be a manageable and effective tool of instruction.  Going forward from that, I would love input on my lesson plans as I work to make them more reflective of what I’m actually doing in the classroom.
A big update in my classroom that I’d also like you to be aware of/have your input about is that I’m considering (and this week trying) splitting the class in half and doing two rotations, one with me and one with my TA.  one would be vocab introduction and review and the other would be structure practice.
ANYWAY.  This email has certainly gone on long enough but I feel better letting you know where I am mentally!  Talk to you soon.
All the best,
Heike

I think updates about what I’m actually doing and all of that can wait until next time, because to me it’s important to capture genuine moments like this.  I should have never been allowed to do my own curriculum with no oversight!!  These moments are not particularly flattering to me or to TFA, but I want people to know that even the teachers that TFA finds no fault or issue with, self-doubt, fear, and passion mix in anxiety-inducing ways.

–Heike

3 Responses

  1. Alicia

    You should know that I admire your passion for this work. I feel like I may have brushed you off this morning because I was busy prepping (sorry, tends to happen). I would love to take some time, preferably outside of school, to just chat and help you in anyway that I can.

    If it helps, I felt like you did so many times last year. I always felt like I had the greatest intentions, but didn’t follow through (at least not consistently). Heck, I still do that. Either way, you should know that you rock my world and more importantly, my babies’ world.

    You were entrusted to plan the curriculum because our leader knew you would care enough to figure it out. I know it feels terrible right now, as you work to figure things out, but you are doing a good job in the mean time. We would be in a much worse position if you just thought it was “good enough”. You constantly search to improve and that is what will make you into a great teacher.

    Let’s vow to push each other around our thinking, keep each other focused on our bigger purpose, and communicate how we can better partner around management and other things with my class.

    Love you chica! Keep your head up!

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