22 January 2015

#Teach2Teach Question 1: Wiggle Room

My advice for new teachers comes down to two words: Wiggle. Room.

My spiritual guide/idol Amy Lenord has started something with #Teach2teach that all new teachers need: real answers from real veterans. The first question from the padawans is about how we balance teaching and planning.

I gotta agree when Amy says
the quick answer is that this is a constant struggle that every teacher deals with every day of the school year. The longer answer is more connected to each teacher's personality, style, strengths and weaknesses.
Wiggle Room in your obligations
She's totally right. My other amiga/hero/spirit animal, Sara-Elizabeth says to stop over-planning and put your sanity first, but I had the opposite problem when I started, I think. Actually I didn't really know how to put my sanity first, but it wasn't balancing the workload that was killing me--it was suddenly being a Grown Up. I'm more like Amy with "the style and temperament of an artist." I mean, Amy describes choosing "anything remotely creative" over the mundane stuff, and me, I spent a lot of my first year making bookmarks out of poster board, contact paper, post-it tabs, and printed quotes for every kid's birthday, I could have benefited from more actual planning. What I needed was Wiggle Room. I boxed myself in giving birthday presents at all--it's not like I had the same 25 kids all year, much less all day. I needed to take on tasks that didn't unravel if I missed one kid or one day.

Wiggle Room in your units
Some newer PLN amigas, Sra. Wienhold and  Mme Farabaugh recommend planning entire units rather than day-to-day, and I gotta concur. I've tried it both ways and every way in between. You need the way in between--the one with the Wiggle Room. When I went day-to-day, I missed a lot of big picture opportunities and sometimes skimped in places I shouldn't have. When I planned whole units perfectly (there were maybe 2), getting off track started making me a cardiac arrest candidate way too early.

No, I say have an overview, with some specific targets in place from the beginning, and start designating "deliverables" (like my fancy new jargon?) day by day. Flesh it out as you go, and leave room to adjust. You know, Wiggle Room.

Wiggle Room for yourself
Yet another sage that inspires me almost daily, Colleen says
As you evolve as a teacher you will change, grow, alter your outlook. You will probably not be satisfied with how you are doing things now…and will need to spend time planning changes. If/when you do – make sure you do them incrementally.
So remember--Wiggle Room in your obligations, Wiggle Room in your unit plans, and Wiggle Room for YOURSELF. Leave yourself room to grow--and wiggle--and expect change. A local non-world-language amiga sent me this article on reflection, and I think it sums up a sound process for how to do just that for yourself.

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