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It’s all about Perspective

Like I do for my students, I hold my own bar very high.  My expectations for myself are high and sometimes unrealistic.  I challenge myself each every day to do my best.  I try to get a little better each day and learn from yesterday’s mistakes.  If I expect my students to do their best, I need to model good behavior for them.  

Today, I mixed up the schedule a bit to allow for my students to have an extra period of Science to work on the Synthesis Phase of the Biodiversity Unit.  So, I taught my Science class during second and third periods instead of the normal time slot during fifth and sixth periods.  So, perhaps I was a bit unprepared, mentally, for this change.  I had a great lesson with varied activities planned.  A colleague was sitting in on my first class to be sure he was on the same page about the new science project as he was going to be working with my students during the second Science chunk later in the day.  I was a bit nervous, as I usually am when I have a visitor in the classroom or am being observed.  I knew I had nothing to fear or worry about, but I was stressed anyway.  The boys were a bit talkative and needed to be redirected early on in the period, but then were quite focused throughout the remainder of the period.  

I started the lesson by explaining the homework and having the students record it in their Planbook Binder.  I then went over the schedule change for the day and rest of the year so that the students would understand the expectations.  They asked a few questions for clarification, as I had expected.  This year’s group of sixth graders are very curious and often ask many questions, displaying their inquiring search for knowledge and understanding, which we love.  I then went over the agenda for the period before we discussed the Biodiversity Fact of the Day.  The students connected it to the three types of diversity needed for true Biodiversity to occur and explained why this fact is a problem that needs to be addressed.  This was a great segue into the Biodiversity Discussion we had next.  I had the students discuss two guiding questions with a partner: What needs to happen for Biodiversity to occur in an area? and What causes Biodiversity to be destroyed?  The students chatted with their partner in an attempt to answer the questions and think about the hows and whys of Biodiversity.  We then had a quick whole class discussion on ways we can maintain or improve upon an area’s Biodiversity.  The boys had some great ideas and suggestions.  We then switched gears as I explained the Synthesis Phase of the Biodiversity Unit.  The students asked several insightful questions along the way.  Following the explanation, I had them get to work by choosing an environmental issue to research.  While the students started working on this phase, I met with students to assess and grade their work on the Analysis Phase.  Some of the students needed to redo their work and spent the remainder of the period revising their work so that they could demonstrate their ability to synthesize their understanding of how Biodiversity affects our world.  

The students were mostly focused and on task.  They did what was being asked.  They seemed curious and interested in the new project.  So, everything went okay, but I still felt blah.  I wasn’t excited about how the class went.  I felt like the period just happened without anything amazing taking place.  The class just was.  I didn’t like that feeling.  The boys didn’t misbehave and they weren’t off task, but I still felt like something was missing.  Was it that another teacher was in the room observing me and the class?  Was I nervous and so unable to process the awesomeness that was taking place around me?  Was it that I wasn’t used to teaching Science so early in the academic day?  Were the students unprepared for having Science so early in the day?  Were they not mentally prepared?  What happened?

My next Science class seemed much better organized and I felt really good about it.  In retrospect, it wasn’t like anything majorly different happened in the second period.  I just felt better about it.  I wasn’t being observed.  Perhaps that was it.  I also ran through the lesson once and so maybe I felt more prepared to do it a second time.  I couldn’t tell you what it was, but something felt off about my first class.

Later in the morning I checked with the teacher observing me and asked for his opinion.  He was very impressed with the class he observed.  He felt I had great management skills and directed the class very well.  He seemed in awe.  What?  Were we in the same room?  He thought the lesson was well executed.  How?  I felt off.  Or was it that my perspective was off?  Did the lesson go just as well as the second period class?  Was it that my perspective was changed and so I couldn’t see what he saw?  Is it that he is a new teacher and hasn’t seen a lot of different classes?  Was there really a difference?  I was intrigued.  How did I see something so different from him?  Clearly, he was looking through different lenses than I and saw the reality while I was plagued by stress and my thoughts.  Sometimes, it’s all about perspective.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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