Monday, April 30, 2012

The Semester So Far

So, it's almost midterms out here, and I've been doing some thinking about how this year has gone so far, and what I want to do the rest of this year.

This semester has been hard, but in a very different way from the first semester I had out here. First semester I had no idea what it was I was supposed to be doing, and didn't know how to budget my time, so I ended up spending a lot of time preparing the wrong things, and even when I was spending my time on the things that mattered, I still wasn't doing it in a way that my students could easily understand. When I think back to what I tried teaching during the first month--the lesson I planned and executed, the homework I gave, the classroom management policies....really just everything I did--I cringe. It was really rough. I was talking with some other first year fellows about this, and the phrase that kept coming up was "Can you believe I tried.....?" followed by laughter. Rough times.

Now, I know I don't have it all figured out, but I've got an idea of what I should be doing with my time, and ways to approach lessons that gives students who are trying a fair shot at understanding the material. Class goes more smoothly, and I'm not too worried about the upcoming midterms. (Well, that's a lie, but it really should be OK) The two things that have been making this semester really hard are homesickness, and worries that I'm not doing enough out here.

In terms of homesickness--I'm going home for the summer (which I'm incredibly excited about!) and missing home is just an avoidable cost of doing this. Going far away from home can have great advantages, but it's not free.

The main thing that's been bothering me is the concern that I'm not actually being that effective. My grades are good, students are decently interested in English, and are grasping the material (and some are doing fantastically--I'll try to upload some work from my students in the future) but I don't know that I'm going to have any impact on my students that will really last. Sure, they might be slightly more interested in English in the future, and they might later look back and think that having a goofy white dude be their teacher was a cool experience, but I don't think I'm being that effective at teaching general life and study skills: perseverance, goal setting, creating intrinsic motivation in students, good note-taking, study habits, and a general understanding of why education and hard work are important.

Right now, I'm not giving my students much of anything that they couldn't get from any other English teacher in the area other than a collection of funny things that their English teacher has said. I'm not discouraged, but that's something I've been trying to change this semester, and really want to focus on after the midterm. Anyways, focusing on trying to figure out ways to teach these skills (many of which I don't actually have.....) while also teaching the present progressive has me stressed out.

Last semester I had a great excuse--I was a new teacher, and I wasn't supposed to know what I was doing. I don't want to rely on that excuse for the first of the two years that I'm here. The basics of teaching are definitely easier than they were last semester, but I feel like expectations are a lot higher too.


  1. Good teaching is an art, but at it's core are two things: knowing what you are teaching and really caring about your students as individuals each with different needs and concerns. If you have those two things you will learn how to be an effective teacher and someone who will have made a difference in your student's lives.

  2. Will, you are the greatest! But you knew I'd say that. That said, I know you are doing great. Nobody saves the world in one, or even two semesters. A mustard seed analogy would go well here. My guess is just being there and working hard you are scattering mustard seeds all over. Who knows which ones will sprout and take root. As always your hard work and dedication inspire me. Thanks for the post!

  3. And another thing. If your kids are learning, doing well on their tests and some are doing fantastically, that is a home run. Or a really big mustard tree already!

  4. Will - sounds like you are going great -see you in 2 months!

  5. I agree! What they said. Have you thought about contacting some teachers you really liked for their thoughts? Remember, teachers spend years in college just to learn, and you are getting to do it by being thrown in the deep end.

  6. Contacting previous teachers would definitely be useful. The more I can steal from other teachers, the better I'll do.