In Chapter 4 of Boogren’s The Beginning Teachers Field Guide Embarking on Your First Years (2018), the transition from the “rejuvenation phase” of Winter break to the second-half of the school year is discussed. Specifically, Boogren recommends that when re-entering the classroom, one should take it slow and utilize this time to implement a sort-of “play” within the classroom. Such strategies discussed include: “demonstrating intensity and enthusiasm, utilizing physical movement, presenting unusual or intriguing information, and maintaining a lively pace” (71). I may not be a full-time teacher, but as a substitute I, too, have recognized the feeling of exhaustion before break and the rejuvenation that follows. Now that I am back in the classroom, I feel the need to enjoy being in the classroom spaces I often occupy and to “play” or amuse the students I work with.
This first week back I accepted a five-day assignment for 7th grade social studies. The teacher had retired over break and had left plans that consisted primarily of worksheets and readings on the reasons for the collapse of the ancient Roman Empire. In my opinion, the content for the week was dull, tedious, and slightly unintriguing in terms of how the content was to be taught. Reading a short text in order to answer a few questions about it is not the most engaging material. Knowing this, I understood that I had to make everything a little livelier, both for the sake of my students and myself. As Boogren (2018) puts it, “be the teacher your students crave to be around” and make that first week back an enjoyable time so that students are engaged and eager to learn (72).
My next steps, then, were to not only lay out the content, but to do it in a way that the students would find humorous, fun, and silly, while also not leaving out the “serious” aspect of needing to get work done. In other words, I adopted a personality that I did not know was within me… Perhaps this was a result of my break away from work and school. Never did I have an issue with getting the students motivated to do the work (which is usually an issue) and complete it (another issue of its own). I also found myself enthusiastic of my return to work the following day, and excited and full of energy upon that return.
Picturing Your Best Possible Future Self
Interestingly, this little writing activity posed at the end of Boorgen’s (2018) Chapter 4, of talking about who you hope to become, was a big aspect of my thinking over the course of Winter break. I had thought a lot about where I want to be in the next few years and did a lot of talking with people about it as well. My conclusions were what follows, showing you who I believe to be my best possible self.
In ten years, I would like to be a full-time educator who has found his way in the unremitting profession that is teaching. This future me will be comfortable and talented within his carefully cultivated setting. When the school day concludes, this future me will return to the property that he owns, ready to quickly tend to his gardens and animals before the sunlight is lost. When the weekend comes, the land will be of chief concern – meaning that the property I own will be tended to thoroughly… A thought that excites and overwhelms me to no end. In the summers, after the long and strenuous school years, I will work as a fly fishing guide, welcoming my clients into the world that I find to be meditative and beautiful. All work and little play it would seem… But all of my work is play in the end, because that is all I have the desire to do. Teaching, gardening, woodworking, landscaping, reading, cooking, fishing, guiding, writing, thinking, singing, dancing, studying, learning, and living; this will become my life and I welcome it with an open heart to the doorstep that I will one day fashion with my own hands.
To achieve such a life requires careful and thoughtful consideration and planning. I have begun saving money and will continue to do so for the rest of my life – all in order to buy property, build a house, cultivate a farm, and live a quality life. However, in order to make this money, I must work. As the teacher I am on my way to become, and become I will, I must dedicate my next three to five years to serious studying and strenuous labor. My students and classroom will become my world and the rest will remain in the background. This is the plan and I plan to stick to it. This is my dream and I will do whatever it takes to achieve it.
It is as simple as this in my opinion; if you tell people how you feel as honest and clear as you can, they will understand. Trust and respect will come of it as well. I believe that being blunt, straightforward, full of integrity and true to yourself will serve you better than anything else when it comes to showing people who you are and what you think and having their support and attention in return. What else, is that always arriving to school with energy and enthusiasm will share the same sentiment of loving one’s job and those they work around. If there happens to be an aspect of the day that you just can’t get through, I do believe that the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach will carry you through… However, with this approach, you are, in a way, lying to yourself and others… In some instances, it might be best to be truthful and explain that it is not your best day and that may help your listeners to understand how they should act while in your midst.
I wonder what is the healthy amount of movement needed? As the educator in the room I am constantly moving around – I mean constantly. The students do not. In my experience subbing I tend to feel concerned when students are out and about and moving… But this movement is usually because of distracting and off-task activity, and not a part of the lesson/class itself… In all honesty, plans left by teachers for me as a sub almost never contain movement. The occasional stretching break comes around from time to time, but that is it. I think that as a teacher, I would like to implement a daily routine for stretching in certain classes… I would also like to have days where I take students on a “school” trip – a mini field trip – where we, as a class, go off to a space that is not within the classroom we normally exist in. I have a little dream of a lesson that requires students to do nothing but walk, think, and write. Specifically, students would walk laps on the track and for every lap completed, they would pause at the bleachers, sit, and write for a few minutes about what they thought about while walking, only to walk another lap again and again to think after each interval of writing. I do believe that movement allows for help in more fluid and aware thinking…
Recently I have been studying random things like crazy so that my general knowledge is attended to, and that this question can be answered within my own life. For the past few weeks I have been studying the southwest in order to be able to communicate cool stories, facts, and details to students, friends, and future fly-fishing clients… I think that in order to have “shiny objects,” to which students can communally shout “ohhh” and “ahhh” toward, one must study and research and practice and understand. This is the only way. This can both be a part of the personal life of the teacher as well as an act within the classroom.
I have always thought myself to be to quick with my pacing. I rush unconsciously through content when I teach it… I need to start being more aware of this ill-practice and start slowing things down a bit. This would allow more fluidity and clarity to my teaching. What used to be an issue was my scheduling and time management which cause me to become stressed, making me perform poorly in my endeavors. Recently however, I have learned to manage my time better than I ever have. There still is work to be done, but my scheduling of events, work-time, down-time, and other things has allowed me to find an equilibrium between organization, productivity, and rest.
This past week, while subbing, I really felt good when I managed to get directions across clearly and to the whole class the first time and everyone began getting to work. This happened a few times throughout the week, but most of the time I had to reiterate directions and expectations which ends up taking a toll on the amount of energy you have.
I know myself to have a growth mindset in everything I do. I do not believe I will become a master of anything until I am very old, and so I must understand that no matter how good I think I am at something, there is still so much more to be learned. Criticism is my meanest friend, but I love to have them over for dinner for a long and well-received conversation from time to time.
This entire post has been of extreme value to myself… I love writing and this piece in particular, being so reflective, has made me feel really good about where I am headed and where I have been. I see that I have come a long way, from the young boy who first set foot into ED 222 and was considering the notion of following in my parents footsteps as educators to the seasoned boy who was up too late working on homework for his master’s classes while a hefty drive to his student teaching placement was a few hours away – minimal sleep was granted from decisions like these. To now, where the young and seasoned boy is on the cliff-edge, hanging on with the tips of his fingers, understanding that it is time to let go, and fall into manhood – the destination that will require an organized, and prepared self. I am ready to fall, and in turn, ready to rise up and become my best possible self.