This week has been a whirlwind of staff meetings, learning school procedures, and frantically crossing items off of a checklist that never seems to end. The pulls of anxiety and the roots of fear are seeping into my teaching stamina and wearing away at my confidence level. The task of teaching seems insurmountable.
As I reflect on all that I've learned this past year, I am thankful for the knowledge and good habits that I have acquired. In addition, I am thankful for the mistakes along the way and the changes that I hope to implement in this first official year of my teaching career.
There are 10 ways that I believe prospective and current PDP students can make the most of their journey while they are in this precious year of training. I am already wishing I could go back and redo some moments in order to have fully maximized on the opportunity that it was. Here are some of my thoughts on how to make the most of your PDP year:
- Read. Take this year to soak in all of the information that you can. I couldn't believe how intrinsically motivated I was to dive into pedagogy and find out more about things like differentiation, assessment, and literacy. Allow your passions in the classroom to drive your knowledge quest and capitalize on the moments you have between class/practicum to read and apply all that you can! For some books to start with, head on over to my Reading page, which outlines a lot of the books I read during my PDP year at the suggestion of my FAs (see #6 for more info!).
- Reflect. This was one of those SFU "buzz words" that everyone bugged me about before I started PDP - but seriously, do it. I am so thankful to look back on the regular reflections I made in my journal over the course of the year and during my practicum. Reflections on my readings, my teaching, and more importantly, how I found myself changing and evolving as a result of this process (see #5 for more info!).
- Network. Get to know your PDP peers. Eat in the staff room during your practicum. Go to Pro-D and meet other teachers. Use social media, if that's something that works for you. I have learned so much through talking to people much wiser than myself, and I am constantly amazed at how willing teachers are to help one another out. I already feel so blessed at my current school at how often teachers are checking in with me and making sure I'm doing okay. Glean from these wise, experienced individuals who are so willing to give you advice! (See #6 for more info!).
- Professionally Develop. This is similar to #1 in that this year is an incredible opportunity of time to invest in your career. Go to as many workshops as you can, as they often have discounts for student teachers (especially if you volunteer at the event!). I wish that I had gone to more, but I appreciated every one that I went to. As I am quickly realizing, in the life of full-time teacher, it is more difficult to take advantage of the valuable professional development opportunities than it was during PDP.
- Transform. Allow for change to happen in your life and in your practice. I left PDP spouting philosophies I would have never EVER anticipated beforehand, even after having worked in the school system (like, "Did you know that students can in fact be intrinsically motivated?" and "Did you know that teachers should actually be called facilitators because they are just guiding student-driven learning?"). Et cetera.
- Listen to your FAs. And SAs. Respect your practicum principal. And colleagues at your practicum school. Recognize that you're a teeny tiny little fish in a big gargantuous pond. It is easy (but why?!?) to think that you know all there is to teaching after reading a few books and getting a few retweets by prominent educators. It's an entirely different ball game to teach for 10+ years and still have an enthusiastic growth mindset and well-intentioned advice for young, cocky student teachers. Trust me, I was one of those young, cocky student teachers. Truthfully, I still am (though hopefully I'm growing out of it!!). It’s a battle against pride that I always have to fight. Recognize that your FAs have done this a lot longer than you. They KNOW what they're talking about.
- Don't sweat the little things. Teaching isn't meant to be perfect. Learning is messy. Let it be messy. It won't matter that your lesson bombed, it will be okay if your whiteboard writing is crooked or you hole punched your worksheet on the wrong side. Keep the big things big and the little things little. One of my big things was prioritizing relationships. I clearly remember one day when I hadn't had the greatest sleep and wasn't feeling the most prepared and my FA called me out on it (see #6 for more info!). She didn't call me out because of either of the things I mentioned, but rather that I was letting it affect my attitude with the kids, which was in direct violation of my big goals as a teacher. Make sure to constantly be checking your priorities in the classroom.
- Sleep. This was huge. And a huge factor to my sanity maintenance. Get it. Often. And in reasonable increments. Have a routine in the evening that helps you unwind and slow your brain down from the day's events. 8 hours preferred. You will need it. As a wise friend recently reminded me, your students will appreciate you being rested and present, even it means you're less prepared, more than if you are cranky and tired with an extravagant learning activity.
- Create boundaries (and stick to them!). Again, not one that I was/am great at. This connects very easily with #7, where you prioritize your goals as a teacher and make sure to keep yourself in check. For me, it was doing all of my work at school so that my homelife wasn't affected. Your family members will not appreciate you waking up every hour of the night to jot down furious notes on your bedside table or get up to write a quick email. Remember the big things, allow time to facilitate them, and don't make sacrifices that outweigh the benefits.
- Stay Positive. Have a good attitude. You will be tired. You might be cranky. Create a wellness plan, ask for an accountability partner, pursue peace. There will be rough days, and that's okay. It’s how your growth (or fixed) mindset responds to these days that will be what affects your teaching most. Allow yourself to stay positive, work hard, and do your best. The kids will notice.
While this is not an exhaustive list, and again, this was in no way a list that I showed mastery in, it reflects a few lenses that I feel PDP can be most fruitfully pursued through.
How do you plan to make the most of PDP?
How did you make the most of PDP?