What I Learned This Year – Volume 4

The picture above is from this years cross country lock-in…by far the highlight of my school year. Love those kids.

few years ago, with the advice of one of my mentors, I decided to write a reflective blog post at the end of the year about what I had learned as a first year teacher.Upon finishing my first end of the year reflective blog post, I received great feedback from peers that read my piece so I figured I would keep it going and write a year 2, 3 and now year 4 reflective blog post. For this years edition I thought long and hard about what I could say that I haven’t already said in previous years…as it turns out I didn’t learn as much this year as I thought I did. Only two underlining themes really stuck out to me so I decided to write about those two themes and abandon my usually lengthy posts with numerous points and lessons . So here it goes, year 4 of what I learned this year.

You Gotta Dance With Who You Came to the Dance With

One thing that I have struggled with quite a bit this school year is trying to define myself as a teacher. I pretty well know how my reputation stands with my students, but this year I have become very concerned with how my peers view me as an educator…which is a first for me. In the short time that I have been teaching I have never been overly concerned with how my peers view me as a teacher; only my students and my superiors. However, for some reason this year I committed a very junior high like sin and have worried myself with whether or not my peers approve of the way I handle business. Being a person that naturally has a lot of anxiety this really bothered me a lot of year and had a significant effect on my mood.

It took me most of the school year before I was ever able to cope with need that I felt to please my peers. Upon further reflection I have decided that I can’t try to change who I am as a teacher based on the perception of my peers and that I need to stay true to what has gotten me this far. The truth is I have gotten to where I am in my career by following one rule, and that is are the kids having fun? Worrying about perception of adults has never done anything positive for me, but making sure that my kids are taken care of and enjoying class has done wonders for me. As long as I stick to this rule and remember who I really work for then I should never divert down the wrong path.

Challenge Yourself

This year marked the third year in which I have worked at the same school and essentially taught the same subject…social studies and Arkansas History. While I have taught other course over the past three years the social studies and AR history course was the backbone of what I taught. This year though I noticed myself becoming to routine with what I was doing. I began to depend on old lesson plans and my creativity started to slowly vanish. In other words, I had gotten too comfortable and I was not teaching well. Luckily I was presented with an opportunity to teach a different subject and grade level next year. I will be teaching pre-AP civics and American Government…which will be a much welcomed change for me. While it will require a lot of work and effort to learn the material and develop lesson plans it will be well worth it. This year I learned a valuable lesson in what can happen if you get too comfortable as a teacher; you start to get lazy and ultimately your lessons will start to suck, which then in turns means that kids are not enjoying your class. I do not want this to happen. When I was a kid I was a terrible student because I didn’t enjoy the act of going to class. My goal as an educator is to do everything I can to ensure that students enjoy class and not resent school as I did as a child.

This change in my teaching schedule couldn’t have come at a better time for me a professional. I really feel like I am at a cross roads in my life where I could be satisfied with what I have already accomplished as a teacher/coach and begin to coast. Or, I could take this opportunity to snap out of my funk and challenge myself to become a better teacher…I choose the latter.

[Update – The Challenge Just Got Tougher]

Mr. McClung

5 Comments
  1. Hello, I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. Your post was great and very good advice. I will focus on my future students more then worrying about my peers and what they think. Cannot wait for the next post.

  2. Mr. McClung, My name is Heather, and I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I am currently taking EDM310. While I am a full time student, I am a part time teacher. I teach Color Guard in a local high school. Although it is only an extra curricular activity, it is extremely important to me as well as the children I teach. This is my third year teaching overall, but my first season at my current school. When I make routines for them, I notice that I’ll use certain skills that I was taught, or that I’ve taught to other groups. And that is scary to me. I don’t want to be that kind of teacher. So I am currently challenging myself to be better. I also rely heavily on the affirmation of my fellow Guard instructors. With competitive areas like lower Alabama, Georgia and Florida, even some of your friends secretly want you to lose. I have learned from my experiences with Guard that I must have faith in my own teaching and my abilities. Colleagues do not make or break who I am, or who I will become.
    -Heather P.

  3. Mr. McClung,

    My name is Phillip Hall and I am a physical education major at the University of South Alabama. I am taking EDM 310. After reading your blog, I felt better. I am not even a teacher, but I have had these thoughts already. Will I be able to keep my future students interested in my lessons? It’s good to know that people who have been teacher even four years have these feelings. Your blog made me think that maybe I need to minor in another area in education; just in case I get too comfortable in physical education. Thanks you for allowing us to read your blog. You seem to be an outstanding teacher who cares for his students a great deal.

    Phillip Hall

  4. I love the message, but on this post it does not appear you re-read anything. There are so many bothersome errors. It seems unprofessional.

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