A few years ago Harry Wong, a teacher and classroom management guru, wrote an article about my journey as a teacher when I first started out in the classroom. It is hard to believe where I started and where I am now after eight years of teaching. I started out teaching high school English for four years, which I later switched to middle school to challenge myself further. Challenge accepted. Throughout the last three years I’ve taught K, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8 at a kindergarten to grade eight school and taught music, art, physical education, health, social studies, and English. Challenge indeed. It feels as though I have taught it all. I have learned more about myself throughout my teaching career than I could have otherwise. Being a teacher is part of who I am. I was born to teach. As most teachers can relate, when I started out it wasn’t easy. I had to learn how to teach and in return teach to learn.
Although I am putting my teaching career on pause for a year to explore the world, I miss teaching every day. It goes to show that I did pick the perfect profession for me. It will make it that much more exciting and rewarding when I go back to work in August of 2014. I will have many stories to share with my students! Reading Harry’s article brings back vivid memories of laughing with my students and crying with my students. I’ve been blessed to have been called to be a teacher. It is not every day that you find the perfect career for you, but I have found mine. A lot of people think that because I am taking time off from work I must be glad to have a break from teaching. It is actually quite the opposite. I did not want to have a break from teaching, but wanted to have the time to travel and explore the world which I otherwise wouldn’t have time for. Not a day goes by without thinking about teaching and my students. I’m forever grateful that I have the privilege and opportunity to take a year off from work to visit all the destinations I have dreamed about! Until I go back to work, I will cherish the time I have for myself.
Here is an excerpt of the article:
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
March 1, 2010
Vol 7 No 3
Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn
What They Don’t Teach in School
“When I first started teaching, I honestly had no idea what I got myself into.”
Jessica walked into her first year in the classroom and like so many new teachers, was caught off guard. The obstacles she encountered left her feeling unprepared and overwhelmed. She ran into problems that were never dealt with in her college education courses. She struggled to find answers for the stressed out parents asking for advice. She had piles of administrative paperwork. Juggling teaching with meetings and extra-curricular activities seemed impossible. Finding time to prep for classes she wasn’t trained to teach meant giving up sleep.
You see, Jessica was trained as an elementary school teacher. However, upon graduation, she was offered a position teaching ninth grade English.
“Never in my life did I ever think I would teach high school,” says Jessica. The last time Jessica had been in a high school classroom was as a Senior—during her own high school days. And now she was beginning her professional career—as a high school teacher at Riverview High School.
In addition to teaching, Jessica was also coaching sports, chaperoning school dances, volunteering on various committees, and helping with graduation. She was working from seven in the morning until midnight every day. Yet still, she did not feel prepared.
“I was discouraged,” she says, “because I did not completely understand what was really involved in being a teacher and most importantly, how to manage it all.”
Jessica knew that she loved being a teacher. But by the time the Christmas holidays came, Jessica was at a breaking point. “I could not possibly teach forever,” she says, “by putting in the hours I was putting in and by being involved in all that I was involved in—and stay sane.”
She knew it was time for a change.
A Few Simple Changes
Over the break, Jessica committed herself to learning how to become a more successful teacher. She attended professional development seminars and classroom management workshops. She read books, including Enhancing Professional Practices, by Charlotte Danielson, and our book, The First Days of School. And she stole everything she could.
Jessica soon realized that a few simple changes could turn everything around. The process would have to start with establishing procedures and routines in her classroom. She developed a list of clear procedures that she knew would make her classroom routines flow smoothly.
Once she had these procedures outlined in her plan, she taught the procedures to her students. This is where most teachers fail when they complain procedures don’t work in their classrooms. These are the teachers that just tell the students what to do and then expect the students to do it. There is no rehearsal or reinforcement of the procedures.
Using the three-step procedure for teaching a procedure that’s taught in The First Days of School, Jessica
- Explained the procedures to her class.
- Modeled and rehearsed them with her class
- Implemented a method of follow through to reinforce each procedure
According to Jessica, “It was not so much the curriculum that I needed a handle on but it was more about management and organization.”
Once the students had a clear understanding of how things were going to run in the classroom, Jessica was able to teach with ease. She distributed two handouts to her students. The first was a department-wide course outline which explained the literature they would be studying, how they would be graded, and the policies for assignments and homework.
Most importantly, at the bottom of the paper in bold letters was this statement:
“The degree of success earned by the student will depend on commitment and ownership. If the three participants: student, parent/guardian, and teacher, work together, the student will experience success.”