The winter break has been long for me this year because I have mainly sat at home majority of the holiday break. Outside of the occasional video game playing and jogging to keep the Christmas fat off, I really haven’t had much to do. I figured with all this spare time on my hands this would be a great time to take some time for reflection on the first semester of the 11-12 school year. In this blog post each “lesson” below will begin with an excerpt from one my student’s end of course surveys. They were asked to answer a very basic survey and evaluate how the course and me as a teacher. Realizing that these are just surveys and they don’t always produce the highest quality data, they do produce some great feedback from the kids and really get me thinking about how I can improve as a teacher.

Lesson One – Government? Really?

Each semester I asked the kids what their favorite lesson of the year was and typically I get answers like “learning about Hitler” or “learning about the reformation” but this year I had several that said they liked learning about government. This really surprised me quite a bit. For me personally it took 25 years before I ever really cared much about government at all, and to have these kids taking a interest in the topic was a bit surprising to me. However, teaching government right now is a bit easier than other years with us entering an election year.

The other interesting part of this answer is the first part that basically said I hate learning about it but I like it anyways…I think this sums up how many people feel about generally feel about government, it’s a love/hate relationship.

Lesson Two – Free Smells

This one really needs no real explanation…I just need to buy more air freshener. I have over 100 kids rolling through my room and I have also use my classroom as my own personal locker room in between my morning and afternoon athletic periods, it can definitely become smelly.

Lesson Three – Pretty Sure We Partied

I never liked school as a kid. I showed up everyday, I went through the motions, and at the end of high school I finished with roughly a 2.0 GPA. It wasn’t until I met a professor in college, that I really enjoyed working with, that I started to care about school and make good grades. The professor’s name was Dr. Kevin Kear and he taught anatomy and physiology…probably one of the most boring classes ever, but I absolutely loved the class because I loved how he conducted class. When I went to his class I felt different that I ever had before, I felt like what I was doing actually mattered for once.

I want to make sure that my social studies/history class is like no other SS/history class my students have ever taken. I desperately want to abandon the ‘boring’ stigma that is associated with SS/history and create a class that is enjoyable for me as a teacher and for my students as well. I don’t want my students to go though the motions like I did in school, I want them to feel like what we do in my class matters and I want them to be able to feel that same sense of importance that I felt in Dr. Kear’s class. I’m not saying that I’m giving that experience to all my students, but I definitely want to try my hardest to provide that type of enjoyment.

The answer given by this student my not have meant a whole lot to them when they wrote it, but to me this is probably the best complement I could ever receive as a teacher. For a student to say that they have care about social studies for the first time ever, that is absolutely huge for me.

Lesson Four – Room to Grow

I feel like in order to be a success teacher you have to be able to listen to criticism. One of the common criticisms on this survey was that I tend to get off topic and joke around too much in class…and I believe that is 100 percent true. I struggle with trying to find the right balance between having fun in my classroom and maintaining a rigorous classroom environment…and I know if my students are picking up on this, I should be as well. While a huge part of my job as a teacher is to make lasting relationships with my students, it’s also to provide rigor and relevance. I feel like I really struggle with providing rigorous and relevant curriculum to my students all the time. As a teacher I have to ensure that my lessons are well design and provide all three components (relationships, rigor, and relevance).

Lesson Five – Still Got It

I try hard to bring lots of energy to the classroom. I really want to makes sure that everyone in the classroom is having a good time. I want to be an effective communicator with my students.

For this student to include all three of these components…really makes me happy. The answer given by this student personifies what I want to me as a teacher and I’m certainly glad that they believe I posse those traits. My only hope is that as an educator I’m able to continue display these characteristics for years to come.

Mr. McClung

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