Sunday, May 6, 2012

Maybe I am a good teacher afterall...

Summer break is inching closer and closer by the minute and I don't think anybody is more excited than I am.  It's been quite the year and as things are slowly starting to come to a close, I find myself breathing more and smiling often.

Last week I officially ended my first year of teaching at the college level!  My college seniors turned in their final HUGE papers and for the past week or so I've been trying to grade the 50-80 page projects whenever I had a free moment.  My final grades have been posted and I've put my professor bag on the top shelf in the den, not to be looked at until at least August!  I'm happy to say that everybody passed, but not without some blood, sweat, and tears on both of our sides.

I always thought that eventually teaching to pre-service teachers would be something I would like to do.  I was excited when I had the opportunity to teach sophomores in the fall and seniors in the spring.  Boy is there a difference between them!  To be honest, other than being a bit taller and being able to drive themselves to class, I can't say I noticed much difference between my sophomores  and my 5th graders.  I found myself counting down the days till the semester ended and making tons of notes of what not to do next time. My fall class was definitely an eye opener and I'm looking forward to teaching it again this fall with lots of revisions!  You live and you learn, right?

My senior class I have to confess, I enjoyed an eensy bit more.  Honestly, I think the content played a big role in this as the class was all about data and utilizing it to increase your student achievement.  I'm a total data girl and my passion for the content definitely impacted my instruction and therefore my students learning.  My students were also right on the cusp of putting school behind them and entering their profession, which meant that they took the class serious (for the most part). A few of them sent me wonderful emails this week, thanking me for the instruction, and sharing what they learned.  I was touched by their thoughtfulness and those words meant so much during this year where I've questioned my teaching abilities.

Besides ending my first year of college teaching, last week was also a big week for my 5th graders as we were preparing for our math state test.  At the beginning of the year, the data had shown that my students were weaker in math than reading, but most of them lower than average in both subjects. I knew I had my work cut out for me and I swear I have worked harder this year then in the last 8 years combined.  It has been a rough year.  I have doubted myself and my abilities to teach over and over this year as I became overwhelmed with state and district requirements and trying to meet each of my 22 students individual needs.  There were times when I would sit and contemplate other jobs that perhaps I should look into.  I was not in a pretty place.

But, with the encouragement of friends and family, I kept plugging away.  I knew deep down that of these students was placed in my classroom for a reason.  We needed each other.  We were meant to teach each other and learn from each other. We would start and finish the year together. Strong.

A couple weeks ago my students completed the reading portion of the state test and totally blew it out of the water.  They rocked it!  I was so proud of them.  All but two of my students met the standard and the two who didn't, just barely missed it. (They will have another chance later this month).  Then this past week, they took their math test.  Remember I shared how as a whole they were weaker in math than reading?  Well they ALL passed their math test.  My class had an average growth of over 100 points!!!!  I confess, I was wiping tears out of my eyes as their scores started rolling in.

We have worked hard this year.  They have. I have.  It is so rewarding to see all our hard work start to pay off.  The joy on their face when they saw they passed was exactly why I teach.  They were so proud of themselves. But, not possibly prouder than I was of them!

Yes, it's been a tough teaching year.
Yes, I've questioned my abilities to teach.
But, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

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