I recently read an article about the anxiety that some students experience as they learn to speak and write a new language.
In explaining how this anxiety is sometimes not adequately dealt with in the classroom, the article had this to say.
“New language teachers are often so concerned about their lessons that they do not pay sufficient attention to their learner’s needs.”
The point resonated with me. It seemed both a shame and right on the money. It dawned on me that it is possible for an entirely dedicated teacher to neglect their students’ needs through a preoccupation with their own performance.
At the start of my first year in Teach For Australia, I remember a comment from an Associate in the cohort above me.
“Get to second year as quick as you can.”
At the time second year seemed impossibly far away. Reflecting on that time and all the thoughts and ideas that were going through my head as I began, it is incredible to think that I am now almost a whole term into my second year of teaching.
Having twelve months of teaching under my belt has meant a few things.
I am much less likely to spend all my time fussing around at the front of the classroom and more likely to wander around the room monitoring and checking in with my students during lessons to see how they’re going.
I am now also much less likely to take personal offence to a student’s behaviour in my class or hideously late homework submission and more likely to back myself and my sufficient efforts to correct this, even if to no avail.
This is because I am less caught up in what I am doing, whether I know the content in every detail and if my lesson plan is watertight enough.
Instead, I am more focussed on whether the students are following the content confidently, the work the students are producing is up to standard and if the students’ active participation in class is sufficient.
With this experience has come more confidence in myself and my ability to make judgements about the students’ behaviour and learning. I have also developed a better understanding of what I can and can’t control in my role as a teacher.
If the last year or so has taught me one thing, it is that you can’t do everything perfectly straight away.
You can’t write a perfectly differentiated curriculum, make every lesson amazingly fun, be a proactive motivator and counsellor and advisor to every single student you teach.
You can’t organise excursions every term, communicate with every parent every week, have a robust data set that tracks every achievement throughout the whole year and have time to eat well, exercise, see your friends and live a balanced lifestyle.
You can manage to make some of these things happen after a little while but if you try to do them all at once, you’ll be completely exhausted and your lessons won’t be very engaging anyway.
One main reason I am glad to have arrived at second year is that I can pay more attention to my students. And they are interesting people.
Removing some of my ego and focussing on the students is making for an even more enjoyable job and — fingers crossed — better learning in my students.