According to Harry Wong’s First Day of School, there are four stages of Teaching. There’s:
- Fantasy-Teachers are naïve and believe that being a good teacher means being friends with the students and not taking an authoritative stand
- Survival-Feel that teaching is a job, and it is only done for the paycheck and benefits
- Mastery- Perform and understand effective teaching and management strategies to improve student achievement
- Impact- Students learn best when teachers have an effect on a student’s life
This is my journey from Fantasy to Impact.
During my first year I went from Fantasy to Survival pretty quickly. Being hired after the school year began, in a high poverty, high crime, low income school next to housing projects will do that to you. But, it was all worth it. That’s where I honed my excellent classroom management skills, my ability to manage multiple grade levels in one class, my ability to differentiate one lesson and make it so that I can teach a student who doesn’t know multiplication and a student who knows them, up to the 9 times tables. It’s where I learned how to deal with a micro-managing dictator of a principal, how to read an I.E.P., how to write an effective I.E.P., how to implement an I.E.P. successfully, where I learned to shut my big mouth and stop complaining after speaking freely in my classroom around an assistant who would run back and tell the Principal everything I said and did. (Can you believe she tried to friend me on Facebook?)
My point is that I went from Fantasy to Survival pretty quickly. I’d say within the first two days. It’s really funny (not ha, ha! funny) when Survival mode kicks in. It’s a day by day struggle. I wish I would have had someone like me to teach me how to plan weekly and by the unit. I had a Master teacher (ha!) who asked me if I went into Special Education on purpose. Do you think she was any help?
After learning through serious trial and error, I did begin to plan for more than one day at a time. I did eventually learn how to plan by the unit, thanks to my Literacy coach who came in my second year. I’ve come a loooooooonggg way in regard to planning and knowing the material, I can’t say that I’ve reached Mastery because I still have lots to learn. But I am on my way. I can, however, say, without any doubt, that I’ve reached Impact.
I offer as an example a post I recently wrote about one of my current students this year, Binaca Blast, who thanked me for “getting her in trouble” because she learned how to be nice and keep friends. My other students talked with me and told me how I changed their lives.
When it’s warranted, I like to toot my own horn. Here’s one last example and I’ll be done. I promise. A male student was so angry last year. Because his mother didn’t tell him otherwise, he thought his father had been murdered. He would have such a look of anger and hurt on his face. I looked at him one day, stopped class, and called him to the back to speak with him because I could see and sense the hurt. That’s when he told me, through tears, that he thought his dad had been murdered and he was so angry. We talked for about ten minutes, during which time I told him to talk to his mother to clear up the nature of his father’s death.
I know this next sentence is going to sound funny, but just read ’til the end. He returned to school the next day smiling as he told me that his dad had a heart attack. I told him that he spent all this time being angry. For nothing. What are you going to do now? How are you going to use this information to benefit you?
“Smile, instead of frowning. Anytime you feel like frowning, smile. Be silly and tell jokes,” I told him.
He actually took my advice to heart. Although there were a few times when I had to stop him from being so silly because he was distracting other students, I enjoyed every minute of it. As I thought about the change in him, my eyes teared up!
I LOVE MAKING AN IMPACT IN MY STUDENT’S LIVES!