Monday, March 17, 2014

SOL: planning, preparation, performance, and second chances

I plan very effectively. Several of my professors have commented on this habit of mine, and I have been very proud. But in these past couple of weeks I have discovered that planning well and performing well are not the same things.

My sweet sister who just had her seventeenth birthday has the best English teacher in the world, at least according to her--one great enough to inspire her to be an English teacher herself. Every time we get together she tells me that she has a million ideas for her future classroom that she would be happy to share with me. Last Saturday we were shopping for her birthday (I, of course spent too much, while she got nothing) when I was telling her about a disaster of a lesson that I had taught the previous day on in-text citations. She said, "Oh, I'm sure you did better than you thought." When I told her she had never seen me teach, she reminded me that she had been in my audience when I videoed the lesson I turned in for the English teaching application.

Then she laughed. Admittedly, it was not great. I was nervous, I had never taught before, and I was teaching a boring lesson (that I had done my best to make not-so-boring). I hope I have improved. But I still felt a little pain--I think it's rooted in my desire to be great at everything I do.

I'm sure all of my English teaching buddies know how disappointing it is to spend hours creating a lesson that follows all of the guidelines that we have been taught, expecting it to go smoothly and the students to at least learn something, if not enjoy it, then get into the classroom and the lesson is enough for those students to want to poke their eyes out. This has happened for nearly every lesson I've taught.

It happened again two weeks ago with a lesson on in-text citations, surely not the most exciting topic. I had spent many hours preparing this 40-minute lesson, and I felt confident that it would go well, with an interesting response to a paragraph about American culture and masculinity that I was sure would spark some sort of debate. The students were bored out of their minds, and I came home defeated once again. It's scary that after teaching only six lessons in a classroom, I was ready to give up, change my major back to English, maybe not graduate at all.

The following Tuesday, though, I got an email from Becky asking if I wanted to come in and teach the lesson again to another class on Thursday. I asked her for revision ideas, and then spent the next two days revamping my original lesson plan, creating another handout and clearer instructions. The second time still did not go as well as I hoped, but the work the students did was noticeably less error-ridden and they were more engaged.

Sometimes teaching hurts. Most of the time I'm not prepared to accept elements of failure. And almost all of the time it's hard for me to see what I did well. I've heard it and said it a million times, but we all learn from our failures: it's our responsibility, duty, opportunity to get back up and try again when we're given a second chance.

1 comment:

  1. You're going to be the best teacher! And anyone who can even kind of get through teaching in-text citations is a champ.