Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Time to Mourn

Yesterday was my final day of work at my school (see my blog post here on my leaving). Students finished exams on Wednesday, and the last two days were devoted to post-planning. My classroom is all packed up and is now in array of boxes in my living room. I have turned in my laptop and keys. I have said my goodbyes. In the aftermath of it all, I now feel sad.

The funny thing is that earlier in the morning yesterday, a fellow teacher who was also not returning, while walking to her car to leave, said to me,"I feel sad now. Do you?" Maybe because I had not yet finished everything which I needed to do, I remarked back to her, "Not really." It did not hit me, however, until I had to turn in my keys and to give them to the teacher who was taking my classroom. The assistant principal to whom i gave my keys said, "I'm really going to miss you here." Suddenly, it felt final. When I was backing out of my parking spot, I realized that this would be the last time I would ever be at this school as a teacher there. That is when the sadness hit me.

On the one hand, I am rather glad to be finished with it all, because since I had made it public to my faculty in March that I was transferring schools, it has been a never-ending, two-month long goodbye for me. The last couple weeks, I had grown so weary of saying my farewells that by the last few days, I just wanted to hide from folks.

But at the same time, I had been a teacher at this school for 17 years (most of my students this year had not even born when I began teaching there). How can I not be sad over my departure? Over those 17 years, I laid down so many roots and established so many great relationships with both my fellow faculty members and students. If anything, I was a great team player. As so many teachers told me upon learning that I was leaving, "This school will not be the same without you. You've always just been here. You are a part of the school culture." Those are certainly nice words to hear.

Most importantly, I had garnered the respect of my fellow teachers and administrators. Especially in my department where we all did not see eye to eye pedagogically, even though many disagreed with me, I still felt like I had earned their respect. Quite honestly, I would much rather be respected than to be viewed as right.  

For now, I feel like I am in a limbo state, because I do not feel like I have a sense of belonging jobwise anywhere at the moment. I have said my goodbyes and have ended my stay at my previous school, but I have not officially started yet at my new school. It is a weird feeling.

However, as one of my mentors wisely once told me years ago when I told him that I was feeling homesick after having visited my family in California (and I was mad at myself for feeling this way), "It sounds like you're grieving. It is okay to mourn the situation." What he said suddenly knocked sense into me; immediately after he said that, I felt so much better, because 
  1. what I was feeling suddenly had a name. 
  2. it was perfectly okay to feel what I was feeling 
  3. more importantly, grieving allows us as humans to deal with and to process our grief, and to come out the other end with a sense of joy (think of Sadness' role in Inside Out).
So for now, I will grieve and mourn over my leaving. What I am feeling is okay, and I know that I will get through it. Most importantly, I feel so blessed to have 17 years worth of wonderful experiences to be grieving over! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

End of the School Year Blues

There is only 1 1/2 weeks left in the school year for me. Here in the south, the school year begins the first weeks of August, and we end before Memorial Day. I always have to laugh when I am at the ACL Summer Institute (which is always the last weekend of June), where there will be teachers who just finished the day before, while I have already had a month of summer vacation. Of course, when I am back at work in August, and those teachers do not have to return until after Labor Day, there is that tradeoff. 

I hate this time of the year. As I have written before, the end of the school year is crazy time with graduation, final exams, the amount of standardized testing which disrupts classtime, and finishing up everything. I always liken the end of the school year to being on a runaway train. The train is not going to stop whether I like it or not, so alI I can do is just hold on. And then suddenly, the train stops, but due to the laws of physics, I am still in motion and am hurled forward. A colleague of mine compares the end of the school year to falling down a hill, and it is just a matter of how battered and bruised you will be when you get to the bottom.

I always feel like I am in a bad mood at the end of the school year, because by this time, students have mentally checked out. With the amount of AP tests and of standardized end of course exams which they have had to endure, they are ready to leave. I too am mentally ready to leave, but many times, I feel like I am fighting against students' attitudes (perhaps, they are reacting against mine). Even though exams are next week, I feel like students are emotionally ready to take exams purely to get them out of the way, although they may not be ready academically (but they could care less about the score). I think that this is how I know i am ready for the school year to be over. 

The end of the school year brings a finality. My friend who is a CPA once remarked to me, "I'm jealous of your schedule, because you have a definite beginning, middle, and end to your year. I just have a neverending cycle of project deadlines." I had never really thought of my job that way, but he is correct in what he said. As teachers, we begin the school year with excitement but cross the finish line at the end, somewhat beaten and bruised; nevertheless, we still finish. 

I do not think that most people understand why teachers need the summer off: in order to recharge our batteries for the next upcoming school year. Teaching is difficult; as much as I enjoy it, I do not think that I could do it year-round, nor do I think that students could endure it either. Keep in mind that we teachers receive a 10-month salary spread over 12 months.

This summer for me is already looking like a busy one. I will be finishing up my final semester in my Instructional Technology degree, so at the end of July, hopefully, I will have obtained both my Ed.S degree and certification to teach it (note - I do not plan to be an Instructional Technologist at the moment). I also will be attending both the ACL Summer Institute and IFLT, and I will be giving two CI presentations at both. I will also be serving as an apprentice coach at IFLT, so I am excited about that opportunity. These two conferences truly do help recharge my energy for August. 

I am already excited about the prospect of a new school year. I just need to get through this one first...

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Perils of Comparing and Despairing

I love reading about other CI/TPRS teachers' successes and ideas on blogs and on Twitter, because on most occasions, it both encourages and motivates me to become a better CI/TPRS teacher, plus I want to celebrate their successes. Like I said, that happens on most occasions. However, there are times where instead I look at their sucesses and at what they are achieveing in their classrooms and think to myself, "Wow, compared to this person, I really suck as a CI/TPRS teacher" or "How come when I tried the same thing, it failed miserably? I must be the problem." The good ol' "compare and despair" syndrome.

I am sure that you have done this before too. Comparing and despairing does so much harm for us as CI/TPRS teachers:
  1. It sets our focus on other's achievements, instead of on our own victories. There are so many things to celebrate in our classroom achievements as a CI/TPRS teacher (even a successful round of circling!) that we lose sight of when we focus on others. 
  2. It makes us think that CI/TPRS is something which can be learned overnight. When we compare and despair, we ask ourselves, "Why am I not achieving like this person?" Maybe it is because that teacher is further along in his/her CI/TPRS experience than you. As teachers, we all know that it takes years for a novice to develop into an actual teacher, so why do think differently about CI/TPRS? In most cases, switching over to CI/TPRS means abandoning and switching one's whole worldview of language acquisition. All of this takes time. Thinking that CI/TPRS is a skill which can be easily learned in a workshop sets up an unrealistic expectation, so when we do not achieve like others, we become discouraged. 
  3. It steals our joy as CI/TPRS teachers. 
  4. It causes us to lose sight of our own individual talents and abilities. Every teacher has his/her own unique personality which others do not possess. Whenever I am in front of my classroom, I have to remind myself that I am the one in the classrom and not "X person." There are lots of CI/TPRS activities which I have tried in good faith which have worked perfectly, because it is me in front of the classroom, and there are lots of CI/TPRS activities which I have tried in good faith which have absolutely bombed, because it is me in front of the classroom. That does not mean that the CI/TPRS activity itself or I am the problem; it just means that probably the activity and I are not a good fit...for now or maybe ever.
  5. It sets up an unncessary competition which never existed in the first place. 
To combat all of this: Celebrate your past victories, and move forward. Continue to progress in your knowledge of CI/TPRS. My personal advice: Be the best CI/TPRS teacher which you can be at this point in your CI/TPRS journey, and take joy in it; that is all which your students really want.