Friday, June 20, 2008

My First Goal for This Year

Not to burn out.

I really do have more goals than that, but it’s really become a primary goal of mine. During my student teaching I burned out at the end - after only one semester with the support of a really great mentor teacher! My whole focus was on the students and I stopped my social life, stopped sleeping, and eventually stopped smiling.

I can't do that again. And not just for me - for the students too. I really think I can become a great teacher, not because of my abilities but because I'm passionate about teaching and willing to learn from research and others. I want this to be my career for at least a couple of decades, and I can't do that if I'm not enjoying myself.

So. My first goal is to not burn out: to leave the second school is over every Friday, to continue to see my friends and enjoy my hobbies, to continue going to my house of worship on Sunday even though I'll want to sleep in, to sleep regularly, to eat and not skip meals, to keep going to the gym, and to enlist other people's help BEFORE I get desperate. Sounds easy...

Among other things I've decided to hire a grader for this first year to correct homework and classwork. I'm still trying to put together my homework policy, but I'm almost certain I'm going to check for completeness, so it’s not a difficult job. It’s just that 170x5 papers every week makes me tired and stressed out just looking at it. I still need to find someone to do it, but if they can give points for effort on homework, bellwork, closure activities, and class exercises, I think it will make a huge difference in my energy level. And my SO (significant other) won't have to help me grade because I look at my box of work and burst into tears!

I've also gotten a lot of support already from my administration with just one granted request: one prep. To me lesson plans are where I want to spend my time. I usually alternate between a document camera for examples and a PowerPoint presentation, with a written lesson plan and frequently typed graphical organizers for the kids, and these all take a LOT of time to prepare. Most teachers like to teach two sections at a time so they don't get bored, but when I got my assignment I asked if it could be changed and they did it! I have 5 sections of Algebra 1 all day. I can see how it will be boring, but I also remember during an internship that by the time I taught the same lesson 4 times, I had learned what worked and what didn't. Hopefully this will not only give me twice as much time to focus on quality lesson plans, but also help me learn faster.

Finally, I'm spending a lot of time this summer preparing. I've got my mother, a wonderful physics professor at a nearby college, and my SO, who is also passionate about education, supporting me. I'm currently trying to come up with my classroom management plans, and organizing all the "stuff" I have from ed classes and my student teaching (I taught two sections of Algebra 1 so I've got a head start on that). My SO told me during my student teaching to write down all my thoughts and observations, but I was too tired, and as a result 6 months later I've forgotten a lot of what I learned the hard way. I'm hoping to use this blog to keep track of my ideas and their success rates.

I'm also interested in blogging to connect to the other education and math ed bloggers I've been reading. Some of them are wonderfully inspirational and I'm looking forward to linking and talking to them.

So. That's my number one goal - don't burn out and drop out of teaching. It'll probably be the hardest goal to accomplish this year, but I really feel like I can avoid or lessen the biggest stumbling blocks I encountered in student teaching, by starting to plan NOW. I'll start organizing what I'm doing this summer in my next post.