Monday, December 13, 2010

Top Ten Lessons

Well, I said I was going to get better about blogging regularly, but obviously I accidentally told a lie.  The past month has been like a tornado.  I blew through so many activities and commitments and events that I simply didn't have time.  All month I kept thinking, "This would be SO great to blog about!"  But I just never got around to it.  I guess that's part of being a teacher.  You start to strip the nonessentials in favor of actually getting work done.

Anyway, here we are...the last week of school.  All of my assignments and journals and assessments are turned in, and all that's left to do is look back.  I've learned so much this semester.  I honestly feel like I've learned how to be a "real" teacher, both from my mentor teacher (who happens to be a educational rock star) and from my students (who happen to be pretty awesome as well).  I've experienced so many things, both funny and heartbreaking; I've gained insight into what it really means to teach middle school. And so, to close out the semester I've decided to compile a Top Ten of 2010: The real wisdom from the middle.

Here we go...
10.  Never wear skinny jeans to school on Fridays.  Actually, it might be better advice to not wear skinny jeans EVER, because middle school boys are awkward, and you may find out later that you were the topic of less than savory discussions in the hallway after the fact.
9.  Never stop smiling.  LOTS of teachers tell you "Now don't even think about smiling at ALL your first year, but this semester I've had so many reasons to smile.  When it got hard to smile, because I was tired or overwhelmed, I always seemed to have a student who made me to get over it and smile anyway.  Smiling truly is proof to me that it's the little things that count the most.
8.  Never tell students they've broken your heart by talking when you're talking. You'll have some brave soul who responds, "So if I talk I get a piece of your heart?  I'm never shutting up!"  Yes.  That happened.
7.  Always find the common ground.  I saw firsthand this semester how important it can be to find common interests with students.  I talked about football and music and fashion--anything to try to get to know my students.  I learned more than I ever thought I would.
6.  Always be willing to be a secret-keeper.  I think it is so important to gain students' trust.  I had several students this semester that I'm pretty sure did not like me or were at least highly skeptical of me as this semester began.  Building their trust and showing them that I was worthy of their trust made everything better.
5.  Always know it's ok to look stupid in the name of education.  Sometimes, you just have to make a fool of yourself to get students to snap out of it an pay attention.  I can't tell you how many days I felt more like a performer than a teacher.  You have to put on a show, and sometimes that means you can't look cool.  I'm OK with that.
4.  Never give up on a kid.  I almost did that.  I felt like I had tried absolutely everything, but then I sat and thought about how many other teachers tried absolutely everything and decided to give up.  Middle school is when kids start to completely check out.  I want to keep my kids checked in, but more importantly, I want them to have a reason to want to come to school.  If knowing that one teacher refuses to give up is the only reason, then so be it.
3.  Make new friends.  I LOVE the middle school where I teach.  I will miss our amazing media specialist and the English department teachers and, most of all, I'll miss my mentor teacher.  When my university supervisor told me we were a match made in heaven, he was not joking.  I'll miss working with her everyday, learning from her experience, and just talking.  She truly has been a mentor and a great friend.
2.  Don't be a coconut.  A student told me this semester that she was like a coconut, hard on the outside and soft on the inside, where she could get hurt.  I learned this semester that you can't be too hard on the outside.  You have to show kids that you have a heart--that you care about their wellbeing and want to hear what they have to say.  By being that kind of teacher, I learned how to communicate with students in a much more effective way.
1.  ALWAYS monitor and adjust.  Story of my life. This semester has almost killed me.  I've taught school, worked three jobs, and made my very best attempt to be a good friend and sister and daughter.  I honestly don't have any clue how I made everything fit this semester, but I do know that there was much monitoring and adjusting involved.  Things change, our lives change and get upside down, and we can either get lost in the change or deal with it and fix things.  I have definitely learned the importance of adjusting in so many aspects of my life this semester, and it's a skill that I will always carry with me.

So there you have it--my Top Ten of 2010.  I learned so many lessons, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind.  I'll try to fit in one more blog this week, but I hope my wisdom has added to your wisdom this semester.  Until then, have a fantastic week!