Understanding Yourself, Understanding Your Students

After having a great conversation with Heather Touzin , I was realizing that despite my inferiority complex, I am making positive gains in the classroom.

I’ve lately been thinking about the importance of mentorship at different stages in my career and seeking advice from those people in positions to help. And I don’t really mean “help” as in hiring position, I mean “help” in regards to job, experience, understanding, and vision.

I think mentorship can be offered and many stages of a career. Certainly in the beginning of any career, a guide can be useful. But as I enter and start creeping past the middle of my career, I can see the benefits of listening to those who have different and varied experience and perhaps better vision and understanding of the education system. I also believe in mentorship as you prepare for retirement is useful, as if you start to feel the “job” is passing you by, you look for ways to stay engaged, keep up, look to make meaningful contributions and memories as you face the future.

We need more time as professionals to talk, discuss, collaborate – not just to exchange ideas for the classroom, but to lift us up in difficult situations. I think it goes beyond social media sharing. (which I do think is great and helps move you forward!) For those of us using social media, we too can fall into the “only the best” syndrome, wherein you believe every teacher every where is performing better than you. We tend to present the best of ourselves to share, (which is the point, we don’t want to share lesson plans that failed!) but that can leave us wondering how we compare. For those of us NOT using these platforms, we don’t always get the feedback that our work matters, we are making a difference, and helpful little tweaks to lighten any burden we may feel “going it alone”.

I wonder if  visiting consultants, itinerants, and specialized teachers that travel to different schools as part of their jobs are the only people making the connections we need? I certainly don’t know all the teachers in my board. Sometimes it’s hard to know and share what is even happening down the hall in our own schools! I don’t know if there really is a “travelling mentorship” program, but I wish we had more chances to see and cheer for each other.

As for my title. If I understand myself, (with help from the eyes of others) I will not only reach my limits, but maybe even push past them. I won’t fall into my “inferiority” complex and think, it can’t be done. If I can lead by this example, maybe I can motivate my students to do the same.

The conversation I mentioned earlier had us discussing some frustration I was feeling (with myself) that I had to repeat a lesson a few times to achieve some success. I felt since I didn’t have enough student understanding, I was failing. Sometimes in the media, we are lead to believe this. (Change your lesson, change your mindset, change your thinking) But with some discussion, I remembered that sometimes PRACTICE makes perfect.  A one-shot deal does not work for everyone. My lesson wasn’t completely faulty, my students aren’t completely faulty, we need to REPEAT some things to make them “stick”. As I’m constantly reminded, “as long as you are moving forward” you are heading in the right direction. The fact that I didn’t give up, I had already decided to go back and try again, meant that I was making the right choices for that class.

By learning to understand myself, I’m also understanding my students. It became so natural, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was doing all the right things, it only occurred to me that I was doing something wrong because it didn’t work the first time. Sometimes you need an outside eye to point out that you are still on track and making the right choices and on that road to success.

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