So, all in all, I thought that this was a turning point of sorts in my teaching practice. This week I presented my HLP-E presentation on classroom management. After a lot of internal debate, I decided to discuss my important discovery that my struggles with an eating disorder over a number of years gave rise to a set of beliefs that go directly against best practices of classroom management. When I was researching I was particularly drawn to discussions of the importance of decisive body language in the classroom. Even though my weight has improved throughout the course of the year, I know that I still struggle with thoughts regarding my body, and that these thoughts have made it difficult for me to embrace and implement best management practices and dispositions. As a result of my increased awareness of this conflict between Ed/best practices for classroom management, I think that I am in a better position to continue to make personal changes (diet, meditation etc.) and behavioral changes in the classroom.
I was nervous about sharing my experience in front of a few of my peers and my supervisor, and I questioned whether or not my personal experience would be appropriate for a professional presentation. Also, just as our class started, the Cathedral of Learning received a bomb threat, so we had to move to a different building. At the new building, we combined the two sections of our class, so I suddenly found myself faced with the challenge of sharing my research and personal experiences with all of my M.A.T./P.Y. peers. The Becky at the beginning of this program would have been totally thrown by this unexpected turn of events (as I mentioned in my presentation, inflexibility is a keystone of my eating disorder, and my eating disorder was less under control last summer), but I was able to take a deep breath and, in the words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, “make it work!”
After the presentation, I received positive feedback from my peers, instructor, and supervisor, which was great. Yet, I think that I am most surprised by the fact that I actually feel proud of myself. Low self-esteem is something that has accompanied my eating disorder throughout the years, so I am not really used to feeling totally satisfied with myself without external input. In other words, if I had given this presentation a year ago, I would only have felt good/stayed feeling good if I had received positive feedback from others. In this case, I know that, regardless of the feedback that I would have received after class, I would have known that what I was sharing was honest, real, and important to my teaching practice.
I know this because my mentor teacher did not react to my sharing in the way that I had hoped that she would. I still really respect my mentor teacher, and think that it is important to note that I “sprung” the information from my presentation at an awkward time. When she came in for her prep period, we engaged in a brief conversation centered on her frustration with my classroom management. I listened to and validated her concerns, but felt that I needed to share the thinking and reflection that I have put into this topic. I really believe that sharing my story/presentation with her was a good move because I think that it will make our conversations regarding my teaching more meaningful and productive throughout the rest of the school year. However, in retrospect I wish that I had given her time to process the information first and asked if we could discuss it in relation to my classroom management on the following day. Since we were both emotionally worked up by the conversation that preceded my “reveal” of my presentation findings and discoveries, my sharing did not lead to the positive exchange that I had wanted it to. I don’t want to go into particulars of what either of us said, but I will say that I left the conversation feeling a little bit down and out. Although there was no awkwardness today, I want to continue to work on my relationship with my mentor teacher. My research reminded me that communication is a two-way street, so I know that there are a number of nonverbal and verbal things that I have done (during this exchange and others) that are not working and that are reflective of my need to develop what Gardner terms “interpersonal intelligence.” Since professional relationships with colleagues and staff are so important, one of my personal goals for the rest of the year is to really work on doing what I can to develop a more mutually empowering professional relationship between me and my mentor teacher.
On a happier note, I went out on a limb and asked my 5th period students (the students that I have taught the longest) to write down “plus/deltas” for me on the topic sign-up sheet for their upcoming Holocaust projects. I explained that one of my teachers in high school asked us to write down one thing that he was doing well, and one thing that he could work on. I was so scared about doing this, in large part due to my fear of rejection and wanting to be “liked” by students. Now that I am reviewing the students’ feedback, I am so glad that I got over that hangup! I am truly amazed by how spot-on they are. Even though their feedback will not replace my supervisor’s feedback or my mentor teacher’s feedback, I am really looking forward to using my students’ feedback to inform my teacher practice.
Below are a few of the plus/deltas(areas for change) that I am so glad that my students had the courage to share with me. This week I learned that teaching takes a lot of courage, and I can’t begin to say how proud I am of my students right now. Offering critical feedback to the teacher who presents the material and grades your work can be really intimidating (especially when your name is attached to the feedback!) The one thing that I am wondering about is how I can encourage the students who didn’t write anything to share their thoughts (maybe an anonymous/typewritten option would help?)
Plus- Makes class exciting
Change- You seem nervous or afraid <<< Students can indeed “read” me
Plus- Getting less nervous, and speaking more loudly <<<Good to hear
Change- Explain the topic a little better, remind us more often when we have tests or assignments
Plus- in class discussions
Change- Be less nervous. Relax. <<< Again, students can “read” me. Also, nice to know that, on the whole, the students are “on my side,” so to speak.
Plus- Speaking to us directly <<<< I was really surprised by this piece of feedback.
Change- Explain in more detail <<< I am noticing that this is a trend across the board.
Plus- You do a good job of thoroughly explaining things<<< Interesting- as stated above, it seems like a lot of students don’t think I explain things well enough, but this student thinks that I do. Is this a sign that I need to differentiated my instruction-giving in some way?
Plus- Speak well (loud and clearly) <<<Again, I am so glad that the students are noticing and appreciating this change in my practice. It has definitely been a challenge due to my struggles with being a classroom presence, but it is clear that this is something that the students value and that is supporting their learning in class
Change- To start saying no to wrong answers << This is feedback that my mentor teacher has given me as well. I am a little bit surprised that the students care about this too. I hate saying “no” (part of my people-pleasing), but I need to make sure that students get clear feedback regarding correct v. incorrect/off-track responses.
Plus- You got comfortable with the class. <<< My reaction to this was a big smile. However, as other students have noted, this is still an area to work on.
Change – Need to take charge. <<< Ironically this is one of the students that sometimes needs to be redirected. This comment really affirms the research that I did for my HLP. Students need and want clear limits. It helps them feel safer and more secure in the classroom. Also, in a class where the teacher “takes charge” more instructional time is spent on helping students more forward toward learning goals.
Plus- Have gotten better at speaking up and being more direct. <<Again, good to hear
Change- Be more enforcing with off-task students.<<< Again, evidence that students do care about classroom management!
I can’t wait to hear from more of the students in this period as well as those in other periods. If anyone has suggestions or good forms for eliciting student feedback, please let me know!