My Strengths, My Classroom

So much of what I try to do, professionally and personally, stems from a perceived lack. This perception typically has its origins in other people- the things people tell me about myself that have been reinforced, over and over again, for decades. Lately, I’ve had some great luck in having those perceptions shaken up.


I took a class this fall, for professional development. I thought it would behoove me to improve my grammar, as that was where I felt I was weakest. Why did I feel this way? Well, the last year of trying to teach it definitely showed some gaps in my education. So I jumped headfirst into a syntax class, which felt like “grad-school light.” It was hard, and I earned an A (although it wasn’t the A I wanted). When discussing the course with another student, she asked what I taught. When I told her English, she said, “Oh, you seem really familiar with grammar.” And I must be a true English teacher, because someone complimenting my grammar warmed me right up.


As another example, in a one-on-one with my principal today, she noted my organization, and my willingness to engage in conflict (not confrontation, not aggression; just a determination to do what needs to be done). These are both areas I’ve made specific efforts to improve, because they’re also areas in which I don’t feel particularly strong. It’s so nice to know that my efforts of compensation are working, and being noticed.


That said, maybe it’s time to reevaluate myself, and eliminate some new weaknesses.  And what about you? Any areas of your life you’re compensating for? Any improvements you’d like to share?


These First Few Days

The end of August slunk in, quiet and messy as a wet cat. Back in May, I made all of these grand plans for how to use my time off wisely. I was going to read every single book I planned on teaching this year. I was going to revamp the unit plans for the books I taught last year. I was going to refresh my knowledge of grammar. I was going to do all of this while working a summer job, and maintaining a respectable summer glow.

None of that happened. But does that mean my summer was a waste? No, indeed. Here’s what I did do: fell in love with whitewater rafting. Played tourist with my niece in Chicago, a city I’ve visited dozens of times already, but hadn’t seen through the eyes of a five-year-old since I was one. Published three pieces, a tiny sum, but approximately 300% more than I’ve published since college. Even without the plugging in the teacher time, I managed to wring good things out of the season.

But was I prepared to go back to school last week? No, not really. I pulled together every bit of wisdom I earned last year, and read a few books (including Harry K. Wong’s The First Days of School, which apparently every other teacher has read), and cobbled it together into a classroom management and lesson plan. I panicked a few times, because where last year felt like I was reinventing the wheel at every turn, my procedures and plans for this year felt routine. To me, at least. The new plan stirred up some comments from my students.

“Ms. B., you’re like, hardcore this year! Last year, you didn’t care about rules!”

“Last year,” I tell them honestly, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m learning too.”

Best-Laid Plans

This week, in the midst of resurrecting a 25-year-long dream, I started preparing for the fall semester. Writing is what I’ve always loved; teaching is what I started doing to pay the bills (this is humorous on a cosmic level, I’m sure). Once I started teaching, however, I received this delightful surprise: I actually do enjoy it. Now the trick is to get better.

One of my goals this year is to be more organized. Last year was my first at this school, and my first year in my own classroom. I’m not ashamed to tell you that it took the better half of the first semester to catch my breath, let alone figure out what I was doing. As I start to put the year together, I’ve started making my planner.

There are plenty of beautiful planners on the market, and plenty handmade by enterprising bloggers, who are generous enough to share. Why make my own? Well, simply put, I’m a control freak. When I customize my own, I get the exact look that I want, all the features I need, even hand-picked quotes by my favorite authors for quick doses of encouragement (you know, when it’s No-School November and I’m in the planning weeds).

Bonus: in addition to a beautiful planner, I get to brush up on my long dormant computer skills. But the planner isn’t finished yet. So, fellow teachers: enlighten me in the comments: what do you find completely necessary in a planner?plannersample