What I've Learned this Year (2008-2009) Response
In reflecting on his first year as an elementary school teacher in Missouri, Mr. McClung emerges with several pieces of valuable advice and lessons learned. He offers this advice to his readers, providing future educators with the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and experience. I have summarized his musings and what I took from them below.
1.How to Read the Crowd
Basically, teachers should know their audience. Instead of making the lesson plans and classroom curriculum revolve around you, be student centered. It's not about simply conveying the information but making sure that the students comprehend what you are teaching. To me this is all about being relevant to and getting feedback from your students. I think we have focused on this in EDM310, making sure the students are the center of our classroom. We are currently learning to cater our classrooms to the students' needs.
2. Be Flexible
In other words, don't be over-controlling. Roll with the punches. Lesson plans are not set in stone and will fail at times, but that is ok. I think this is the piece of advice I need most. I have a problem with control, and thinking back on it so did most of my teachers. Sometimes I think of my future classroom as my domain, a place where I can control what it taught and how it is taught. Even though I feel I will cater to my students, I should realize that I can't control everything that happens. "Mistakes" are always learning experiences. If I understand Mr. McClung correctly, a lot of teaching is trial and error. I just can't sweat the errors.
It's hard to develop good communication, but it is key in success with peers and students. For the most part he is talking about communicating with coworkers and other staff members. However, this is a good life lesson. I think it is impossible to be an effective educator if you aren't an effective communicator.
4. Be Reasonable
Mr. McClung says that you should set the bar high, but don't be discouraged when students don't meet the goal. Always remember you are dealing with children; they are not perfect nor are they mature adults. They need to be encouraged and guided. I tend to set fairly high standards for my personal life, but I must always keep in mind that the standards I set for my students should be attainable and realistic. I never want to discourage or demoralize my classroom.
5. Don't Be Afraid of Technology
Advice we don't need as EDM310 students! If EDM310 hasn't cured you of your fear of technology... nothing will!
6. Listen to Your Students
Invest time into getting to know your students; it is critical to gaining the respect and trust of students and will make you a better teacher. There is no way that I can do the things above (be a relevant teacher, know my audience, or communicate effectively) if I did not take time to really listen to my students. I don't think that he simply means to listen to what they say but to care about what you are hearing! Children of all ages are very intuitive and in-tune to the signals you are giving off. They know if you are listening and caring or just pretending to!
7. Never Stop Learning
If there was ever a time to heed these instructions, it is in the information age. New technologies, resources, and tools are emerging everyday. I know I have said this a lot but it all goes back to the NETWORKED TEACHER. How can we be effective educators if we are not relevant to our students? How can we get students involved in their own education when we are out-of-touch with the world they inhabit?
Perhaps if we will listen and learn from Mr. McClung's lessons, we won't have to make the same mistakes or oversights he did in our first year!
What I Learned This Year (2010-2011) Summary and Response
In his third year of teaching, Mr. McClung relates his experience of being at the same school for more than one year and making some career changes along the way (starting to coach, etc..). Again in this year, he offers invaluable advice and reflection for future educators. I don't know if Mr. McClung wrote these blogs for himself or for other teachers, but it would be foolish for us not to learn from his experiences. Just as in the previous years, he offers practical advice from lessons learned.
1. Know Who Your Boss Is.
When I first read this heading, I thought he would offer advice about dealing with your school's principal. However, he is talking about students. He advices not to let other adults get in the way of the real people we should focus on: the students. As a first year non-tenured teacher, it will be hard to confidently put the students first without thinking about pleasing administration, parents, or other teachers, but Mr. McClung is absolutely right. Our first and major concern is to make sure our attention and focus is on students. This goes back to making sure our teaching is student-centered.
2. Don't Expect Others to Be Excited about Change as You Are.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Be an Outsider.
He relates this advice with the previous point. Being an independent thinker and a student-centered teacher may not make you many friends in the teacher's lounge. Mr. McClung says that he is not bothered by being the "outsider" teacher that focuses all his time and attention on his students, not on fellow faculty/staff. I understand what Mr. McClung is saying, but I don't want to take it too far. We have been learning that one of the most valuable resources you can have is OTHER TEACHERS. In fact, that is what we are doing right now... Learning from another teacher's experience. I do not want to isolate my coworkers or make an uncomfortable working situation. If being an outsider simply means that you focus on your students, I guess that is ok. We should never ostracize ourselves from our peers (in my opinion).
4. Don't Touch the Keyboard.
This piece of advice came from one of his fellow teachers. His basic point here is that as an instructor if you touch the keyboard while you are teaching, the students will never learn how to do it themselves. We have talk about creating students who are independent thinkers. I think that is what Mr. McClung is talking about here. "Students learn by doing." Isn't that what Dr. Strange always says? I understand that it can be hard or frustrating to let students do it on their own, especially when they are making mistakes and YOU know how to fix it. Trial and error are great ways to learn, and mistakes always lead to learning.
5. Don't Get Comfortable.
Apathy is the enemy of any good teacher. Mr. McClung recognizes that routine and organization have their place. However we must always strive to do better and challenge ourselves and students. I think this attests to his earlier point about always learning. If we are always striving to learn something new everyday, then we won't be complacent teachers. We will be exciting, relevant, informed teachers!