Friday, February 11, 2011

Week 19: The Other Side Of Teaching

One of the things that young teachers often reflect when they start teaching is how most of job of being a teacher is not spent in front of students. Yes, teaching is the central part of what teachers do but honestly it’s only a fraction of the job. While some teacher mourn this situation, it’s not always such a bad thing.

Now a lot of time is taken up by lesson planing.  This activity can be a pain sometimes especially when you don’t have time to create a lesson but when you do, it’s awesome. Whenever I teach a song in class I spend time researching the material which I love doing. If we are really life-long learners as teachers lesson planning is a great opportunity to continue learning about out passions.

There is a science in the way a lesson is sequenced and a unit is organized. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, I love making plans and I love it when a plan come together.  And sometimes it's even better when they don’t.

Then there’s the teacher meetings.  The gatherings include full faculty meetings, division meetings and department meetings. These meetings can be organized in many different ways. Sometimes it’s a book club discussing books related to education, these meetings can address specific problems and processes in the school and other times they feature guest speaker.

At their best these meetings rejuvenate, solve problems in the school and supply great new ideas on how to teach. At their worst, these meeting can well. . . be a waste of time.

The worst meeting I can  remember was at my first job a couple years ago. They had brought in a speaker on this new initiative called “problem solving.” It was this new process of solving problems that included like five different steps and was one of the most asinine ideas I had every heard in my entire life.  Has anyone tried to teach you something that you already knew how to do?  Yeah it was like that with the added bonus of the speaker's superiority complex.

As annoyed as I was at this experience, it was a great bonding experience with the other teachers at the meeting and a source of continued jokes in the following weeks. That’s just the thing, sometimes it’s the moments of frustration and annoyance in a shared experiences that make you feel like you are part of a community.  This is why the other things that I do in my day that aren’t teaching are some of my favorite things about the job because they do what that horrendous presentation do: help me become part of the school community.

I love standing in the hallways at the beginning of the school day and during dismissal talking to students, teachers and parents.  I make a point to eat lunch with other teachers, talking with students during recess and visiting classroom learning about what students are learning with other teachers.

Teaching cannot exist within a vacuum. Curriculum must reflect the environment in which it is taught to be relevant and effective. That environment is the larger society but more importantly it is the school community. If we are to truly understand what it means to teach within the context of a school we need to spend time being a member of that community.

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