By Toni M. Poling
I don’t make personal resolutions at the beginning of each new year. This is mostly because I try not to lie to myself. In the past decade I’ve joined a gym. I’ve quit the gym. I joined a gym. I quit the gym. I joined a – well, you get the idea.
They say that hindsight is 20/20, so here in the year of clear vision, I hope to continue to grow as a person and as a teacher. I hope to gain a clearer vision of the teacher profession in general, and on my own teaching specifically. With that in mind, this year I plan to re-visit some previous professional resolutions with the goal of perspective and resolve.
- I resolve to meet my students where they truly are and not where I think they should be. As teachers, one of our challenges is meeting the needs of all of our students, the ones who need guidance and the ones who just NEED. This can only happen if we are honest with ourselves and our students about where they are when they come to us; now where we think they should be when they come to us.
- I resolve to hear each student’s voice every day. As a high school teacher, I see approximately 140 students every single day. SINGLE. DAY. Recently, at the end of a particularly challenging class, I realized I hadn’t entered my attendance at the beginning of the period (this should probably be on the resolutions list…) so I sat down to do it at the end. In the process, I realized that I couldn’t remember whether a specific student had been in my class. I couldn’t remember if I had seen this student or not. This is unacceptable. I resolve to not only SEE my students, but to HEAR my students, each of them, every day.
- I resolve to grade less and teach more. I’m not one of the teachers who can honestly say that I feel grades are unimportant; I feel that accurate grading serves as an important feedback tool for teachers, parents, and students. Grades are a universal language we can all understand. Even so, I sometimes find myself planning lessons with the grading load in mind. I have been guilty of letting my grading dictate my teaching. No more. In 2020, my students will dictate my teaching (see resolution 1).
- I resolve to find balance between work and home. My son, like the children of many teachers, has spent a large amount of time playing in my classroom. When he was very little, he used to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles through my projector on my white board. He’s had numerous dinosaur battles in the middle of my classroom floor. This year, he helped me put together my homeroom packets and it only cost me a “high school pencil.” I don’t regret the time he has spent with me in my classroom; I want him to understand how hard I work for my students and how hard his teachers work for him. At the same time, I never want my family to doubt that they are a priority it to me. So, I will work less at home. I will be more present with my students in the classroom and more present with my family outside of it.
- I resolve to remember why I love teaching. I was asked recently why I have stayed a teacher. There are a lot of factors that impact whether or not a teacher will stay in the classroom, but I truly believe there’s only one reason to stay: the kids. Over the past 16 years I have kept every note or card a student has given me. I’ve dedicated an entire drawer in my desk to them. Even in a profession you love, not every day can be a good day. On the not so good days, I randomly choose a couple to read to remind me exactly why I stay. Those kids are worth it; all of them. The easy ones and the harder ones. The ones you connect with and the ones who fight the connection. They’re all worth it. Every day.
WVCTE is wondering what your classroom resolutions are for 2020? What do you hope to approach with a clearer vision?