I am currently in my 25th year of teaching. Years ago, I would be only 5 years from retirement. That is not the case anymore. I have ten years before I can even consider retiring. I am tired. I am trying to keep up with all of the new ways of teaching. It's exhausting. I genuinely feel bad for all of the new teachers coming in. There have been so many new things that they need to learn stat! I hope that they give themselves the gift of time. You would think that after 25 years, and a gradual introduction to all the new ways of teaching, I would have it all nailed. Well, I don't. I'm trying. I read books, blogs and anything I can get my hands on. I want to to the very best that I can for my students.
So it's time to take a step back and take stock of everything that is in my wheelhouse. What do I believe about teaching? What do I know about children? What do I know about my students?
My beliefs haven't changed. I believe in making learning exciting and attainable for every single little one in my class. I believe that everyone can and will learn. I believe in joy. I believe in a balanced literacy approach to teaching. It has to be balanced because the kids are all so different. I believe in reading aloud to children. They get so excited about the characters and what is happening in the story! It's amazing to get to be a part of that. I believe in shared reading, hanging back with my own voice so that the kids can construct meaning and work together to figure out the tricky words. I believe in guided reading so that the children have an opportunity to practice everything I am teaching them with prompting and praise for their efforts. I believe that children need to feel productive discomfort so that they work hard to solve problems using a variety of strategies. I believe that science is important so that kids never stop asking questions. I believe kids need to learn about the world around them and work hard to make their mark for a better place.
I know that kids are kids. They want to play and they want to learn and explore. I know that learning is harder for some and easier for others. Some kids excel at math and struggle to read. Some kids make a lot of friends and some are lonely. Introverts are not always shy and extroverts aren't always happy. Families are different and kids come from so many different backgrounds and experiences. I know that I will show up for them as often as I can. I genuinely love my students and want the very best experience for them.
I study hard to know what my students know and what they need next. I listen when they are reading and ask myself what they do when they come to a tricky word and what they need to learn next. In math, I observe their work and listen in to the conversations they are engaging in... or if they aren't getting involved in the conversation at all. I know my students as writers because we are all part of the same writing community. Some write and write and write. Other kids finish one book every few weeks. They struggle, for a variety of reasons. I know these things so that I can teach them what they need.
So why "Old teacher, new tricks"? Knowing my students and teaching them what they need doesn't seem like enough anymore. It seems like I have to teach so much more than I used to. This digital age makes me feel inadequate at times. I really don't like that feeling. So I work harder. I learn the new things and I think about my kids and what they will get excited about. I think about how they can use digital tools and make them meaningful to the kids and their work. It's exhausting. Sometimes there's too much. I just want to go back to the simplicity of learning what they need next and teaching that to them.
I have to teach differently. I'm just not sure how. I think about it all the time. I wonder what I can do to increase their level of engagement. And then it happens... they are excited to read and write and problem solve. I never really know exactly what did it. I just know that it happens and it's so wonderful for the children and for me. I will keep plugging away. I will keep learning and I will continue to grow as an educator. I will learn the new tricks.
One thing I'm sure of though... I will hold on to the good stuff. I will continue to strive to know my students and to help them to figure out how they need to learn.