Friday, May 6, 2011

Would You Like Being a Student in Your Own Classroom?

It was a simple question really, "Would I like being a student in my own classroom?" that stopped me in my tracks.  Last year when the students had left, the chairs had been put up, and the exhaustion hit, I realized that no, this was not the type of classroom I would have wanted to learn in.  And so began a quest of soul-searching, revising, and rethinking, in order for myself not to become a statistic; another new teacher who quits.

I don't know where I went wrong.  After all, in college, teachers loved my lesson plans and raved about my ability to connect with students.  I graduated with a big heart and a big head.  I was going to save the world.  And yet, something didn't click.  In social studies last year I remember scolding my poor students because they were obviously uninterested.  I kept telling them that this was important and they better listen, thinking that yelling at them would make them snap to attention.  Or the student who once again didn't do his homework, he got an earful as well because that would show him.  Oh how off track I was.

It really hit home when I read a parent magazine last summer in which a question was posed, "My child dreads going back to school, what should I do?"  The answer?  "Remind them that they will see their friends and how much fun they will have during recess, art and music class."  Recess?  Art?  Music?  What about writing, reading, math?  What about the majority of the time?  Would they be glassy-eyed robots just waiting for the next bubble of fun outside of my room?  I had to change.

So I looked inward, reflected, and realized that i had it all wrong.  School wasn't about me, or about the knowledge I was going to impart on my students.  Instead it is about them, the students  Those eager kids that show up ready to learn if you let them.  So I had to get out of the way while still acting as a guide.  I have written many posts about my transformation and how much it has affected me as a person and as a teacher.  Most importantly though it is through this transformation of my own ego that real change has happened.  Now I look around my classroom and I celebrate.  There is the girl who was too shy to even look at me busting out of her shell as she acts in a fractured fairy tale.  There is the boy who barely could add two numbers nailing most math concepts.  Or the shy and kind boy, who's biggest wish now is to be on more committees so he can decide things.  That is what it is all about.  My students are ready for 5th grade, they are ready to leave me with their new knowledge, their energy, their inquisitiveness.  I got out of the way and it worked.  Now when I ask my kids what is the best thing about school they tell me it is all the learning, the projects, the work.  Not recess, not the parties, not their friends, that is just extra.  And what a victory that is.

So I will continue to change and adjust.  I will continue to ask myself whether I would like to be my own student.  It was not a pretty realization back then and it wont ever be but it was a necessary one.  Now I am proud to say that yes, I would love to be a student in my own room, and not because of the teacher, but because of the opportunities to learn.  Would you?


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

enjoyed reading....first i read that sentence that "would i like to be a student in my own classroom " and thought on that, the answer is obviously no.. but please do help me.. i have 35 students in a small room .. they are sitting on very close benches.. and they arent interested in studying any subjects. the room is too hot and they are bored from the same hot class. and even they arent able to sit properly. school management is not agreeing for renovation or exceeding the area of the room . being a teacher what can i do .. which help me to motivate in being a student to sit in that pathetic room .. i hope u will help me .. :)

Mrs Ripp aka 4thGrdTeach said...

Wow, that doesn't sound like a great learning environment. Is there any way you can get rid of some desks and have students pick where they sit? What type of control do you have over what you teach and more importantly how you teach it? Start small with changes and offer choice for your students. I hope that helps a little.

Techyturner said...

Anonymous- Mrs. Ripp has good ideas. Try them Monday. Do start small.
Mrs. Ripp - I've heard this question before and my answer is "Not most of the time". Objectives that are lined up for me and need to be done within a certain time frame for each student to score well on a standardized test are in my way. Well, I've done some "thinking", and I need to dig in and make it work for them and for my class. No more excuses. Thanks. What new things will you be doing next year?

Patrick Higgins said...

Mrs. Ripp,

Well done! I applaud your reflection and taking action on what you found. The question is truly a simple one and one that I think can expand beyond the walls of your fourth grade classroom.

Think about the types of work we ask our students to do? What percentage of it would we enjoy doing? What percentage of it do we assign because it's "what we did when we were there?" All good things to ponder as we head either into the final stages of the year (I'm in NJ) or as we ready for summer vacation.

John said...

I really like this post. It gives a simple rubric for evaluating your own teaching. "So I will continue to change and adjust," you say and that's an awesome goal.

I was an awful student in college and often skipped boring classes. I feel like that gives me the responsibility to make it worthwhile to be at class.

My room for growth has been making class worthwhile for all the students and not just ones that share my inclinations. That might even mean giving stuff for students who want some traditional school math, though I struggle with that.

Mrs Ripp aka 4thGrdTeach said...

I think the comments on these posts have been very thoughtful. This year has definitely been one of trial and error, would I want to do things myself or am I just assigning them because I feel I have to and so on. I have along path to travel and yet this one is much better suited for my own passion as well as the diversity of my students.

Ben said...

Pernille--Great post! I've struggled with my daughter's teachers this year--been quite disappointed in lots of things and so what I ask myself is: "Would I Want My Own Child To Be a Student In My Classroom?" I try every day to make sure the answer is "yes!" Thanks for sharing.

@engaginged

Mrs Ripp aka 4thGrdTeach said...

Ben, I fear what you are going through for my own daughter. I know how burned out I was on school and then I still made the same mistakes, I hope for a different experience for my daughter. We just have to keep believing we are making a difference and thus others may notice.

Tracey A said...

Hi P!
I am one of your Twitter friends (tamend). Would you mind if I shared this blog post with my teaching staff when they return in August? I'd love to do some small group work around it (with your permission, of course!). I just love your perspective on everything. Would you like to move to Colorado and teach?

Katrina Viloria said...

Hi!

Thanks for the share. I love the honesty and I was able to relate with your post. I'm on my 4th year of teaching and I experience the same struggles and also ask the same question.

When I start thinking the way my kids do, looking at things in their perspective, it helps me reflect on what teaching is all about. My best teachers are my students. :)

 

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