The top five things I’ve learned or relearned from institute so far.
1. Students don’t care who you are, what you look like or what your weird quirks are; they just want someone to teach them, provide structure and care about them.
This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn throughout all of my training as an educator. Before the first day of school I start worrying about what my students will be like and what they will think of me. My trans identity definitely plays into this a lot. I think that what I most fear is that my students will not be able to learn from me because they will be to bias or to distracted. This past few weeks has shown me otherwise. All six of my students are doing just fine. In fact one of my students on a classroom culture survey put my name at the top as Mr. Miller and then said “she” for all the responses about me. This past Friday on their exit slip (end of the day quiz type thing) she got 100%. Clearly she is confused by my gender but it is not impeding her growth as a student.
2. Structure is the key in all classrooms big or small.
The second day of class after finding out that I only had a few students I decided to sit in a circle with my students to teach them. The problem was that since this was not the structure they are used to and since I did not present them with the structure of the day there was a lot of confusion and inevitably they did not get that much out of that day. Now that we have a structure in place where my students come in start a “Do Now”, we have a lesson, work in groups/partners and then do independent practice they are doing so much better!
3. It is better to get sleep than write the perfect lesson plan.
I have been going to sleep between 1 and 2am every night during the week. This makes me extremely tired however there are other folks that are not going to be until 3-4am when we have to get up at 5-6am. Inevitably, these folks are super tired and low energy in the classroom. If you ask what they were doing the night before they will tell you that they were lesson planning. This is ridiculous. Lesson planning and practicing should not take that long. Perfection is not going to happen. When your perfect lesson plan goes awry you need to be on your toes and awake to manage it. That is why sleep is more important that “the perfect lesson plan.”
4. Be careful what you say, it will come back to bite you in the ass or come back to shower you with love. Your words determine which it is.
If you are tying to give an example of something around your peers make sure to clarify to a T because if you are misunderstood you will end up with a confrontation on your hands. This applies to both students and colleagues. If you clarify everything and be pleasant and loving your words will make their way back around to you in the form of praise or adoration.
5. Good teaching is good stealing with modification.
This is probably the most important lesson that I have learned. Stealing a lesson plan without making it your own is a disaster. However, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If I can find a lesson plan that teaches what I want to teach why not use the problem set or examples as mine. I’ll modify the ideas to meet my needs as a teacher and spend half the time I would trying to formulate my own original idea.