Rounding it up and going forward…
It was a really rugged end of the year for me and I’m trying to sort through why and what I’ll do/expect differently for next time.
Heavy-duty department politics. Uncertainty about staffing for next academic year. My son playing brinksmanship with his grades and college admission and my family in England in flux. The 8th graders so intent on getting out of middle school and into the rest of their lives that most barely said good-bye on the last day.
So I guess that it’s okay to feel like an obstacle in an extreme, Japanese game show – like when the contestants have to run across a pond on floating mushrooms or something. Being ‘left behind’ was a fear I had about going into teaching in the first place and I really thought I had moved on to framing the job as more like the stable bow that launches the arrow – much more Kahlil Gibran.
Here’s my take-away after a weekend to mull it over.
1. 8th graders are at a really different stage of life compared to 7th. They are so sick of middle school by the end of the year. The need to be socially cool is very strong and precludes many students from being SEEN to be nice to the teacher. I remember the same thing. They are in the throes of defining themselves and have to differentiate from the powerful adults in their lives.
2. Project based learning is harder than single lessons, direct instruction and book work. It invades their lives, it’s less defined and is therefore somewhat more stressful. For this reason, it’s really helpful to have a whole grade level doing pbl, when the projects become part of the culture. Our students are so heavily scheduled that I understand their wish to have easy, get-the-A assignments.
3. This was the first time out with new curriculum that was being written as the year went by, often at the last moment. Because of that and my stress level, it’s just not going to be perfect. It’s okay for ME not to be an A student the first time out too. It feels very scary admitting that to this blog and to my classes, even as I preach it to students.
There are many things I will be improving for next year, based on reflection and student feedback in the end of year survey. But for now, I’m trying to put things in perspective and to think about how much was done this last year and know that it’s like pushing the Queen Mary. Nothing seems to be happening for a long time until, barely perceptibly, a lead of water opens and the ship moves out.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the boundless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery