Friday, June 20, 2014

The School Year Ends

Well, sort of. There are three more days for which I need to report. But the teaching part of 2013-15 is over. Commencement took place today. I saw a quirky, nice, and ultimately likable group of students graduate today. My only regret with them was that I felt that I came to really know only a small group of them due to my schedule of classes the past two years. I knew the class of 2013 much better, and I feel a bit odd that today's class felt more unfamiliar than last year's crew did.

I spent half of my teaching time this year with a different group of students. These were co-taught academic classes, which means that the class was academic (or college prep) but with a larger-than-normal group of students who struggle at school: students who read behind grade level, students with less-than-normal motivation to come to school, students who struggle to complete work on time. Though the experience made me better understand the program of which I'm a leader, I don't know if it was necessarily the best experience for the students. I've become a specialist with AP students. I've come to know what motivates them, I've come to anticipate their questions, and I've really calibrated my instruction and problem-solving to their general aptitude. I need to embrace that role, because I am capable of doing a lot of good with those kids. I can help them grow more profoundly than I can the co-taught population.

It's a bit humbling to admit that I'm not very suitable to a particular group of students. Much of it is perception, too. I'm sure that things I ask of my students that really aren't that hard seem harder because it's me (a guy reputed to be that AP guy) assigning the task.

Philosophically, I have some issues teaching a group of students in a class where the stated goal is college preparation but knowing that many of the students in that class don't wish to go to college and probably are best suited for an alternative to college. It seems appropriate to calibrate instruction for students likely to go to college vs. unlikely to go, and I wish my school still had a program or level for those kids looking for something other than college after high school.

The 2013-14 year saw some pretty good teaching from me. I made a good attempt at integrating new types of assignments and new routines into what I was doing. Also, I feel good about the friendships I'm cultivating. It's good to do that cultivating for I lost a few friends this year: one to cancer, and another who left to pursue an awesome career opportunity.

I think what I'm happiest to report, however, is my growth as a first among equals. Two years ago I accepted a role as coordinator, which is a role that's more about influence than direction and tone-setting rather than controlling. I'm happy in seeing the subtle shift in mood in my department as I sense my colleagues embracing a more collaborative and problem-solving approach.

I got too hot-headed about some problems that might be beyond my control: a debilitating culture of absence among many of my students and the watering down of expectations for the academic level students.

I did a better job balancing work and home, though the past month or so saw me slide into some old habits.

Ultimately I end the 2013-14 campaign confident that I have found the right position and school for me. I hope that one year from now I feel the same way.

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