After 4 years of teaching secondary mathematics and 2 years as a TAP Master Teacher, I decided to return to the elementary school setting as a 4th grade math teacher this year because I really missed teaching math. I also knew that implementing the math CCSS was going to be difficult for elementary teachers. The school that I work at has been deemed as a “turnaround” school. This means that the administrative staff were replaced as well as the teachers. Returning to elementary has really challenged me professionally because my perspective on instruction and student achievement has changed dramatically.
I can sometimes be seen as a workaholic, so it’s not unusual for me to go to the school during the Christmas break to work. This year was a little different because I changed classrooms right before the holidays, so I had to finish decorating my new classroom while the students were gone. We have several new teachers on our campus this year, which I find delightful because they work so hard and most of them really want to get the teaching professional nailed down in their first year of teaching (lol). While I was at school I had an interesting conversation with a new teacher while she was working in her classroom. After discussing several topics she asked me, ” How do you keep your students engaged? I thought about it for a split second and my response was that my relationship with my students first and foremost keep my students engaged. Then I went on to say that because our school is a Title 1 school we must, ” Reach One Before We Can Teach One”. I explained to her that as teachers we must have a relationship with our students (not be their friend) but they must know that we care first before we can teach them. Relationship, Relevance, and Rigor and in that order!
I also said that everyday is a new day for my students no matter what happened the day before. I always try to find something that I like about each student. For example, every student is not strong academically so if they are good at art or telling good jokes (their jokes are sometime the highlight of my day) I focus on the good characteristics while redirecting or targeting undesirable behaviors or academics. Before our conversation ended I said, ” Your first year teaching you are learning, your second year teaching you know what not to do from the year before and by the time you get to your third year you will know exactly what to do and what not to do. Teaching is on the job training!”