Five Thoughts for My Fifth Year

downloadBy Nick McDaniels — By many accounts, some of them well-researched, the fifth year of teaching is the time it really starts to click.

This is it for me, then —  the year when I become a good teacher.

Doubtless, I have survived the years that force most new teachers out, and I can’t imagine experiencing too much else that would really surprise me at this point. So now, it is up to me to take what I’ve learned over the last four years and put it all together.

In thinking about how to do that, knowing that I now have no excuses if I am not at least marginally good in the classroom, I figured I’d make a list of five things with which I will concern myself this year.

Five things for my fifth year…this is both good for professional reflective practice and quite convenient for blogging.

  1. Plan Better – I have not gone a day in my teaching career without a lesson plan, but I would say that I have always relied too much on my desire to think on my feet rather than really plan out potential moments in the lesson where learning would happen best. I have always planned the arc of lessons, but this year I am going to focus on specific moments in lessons where I can maximize learning. I am planning on which students to call on, how to call on them, which questions to ask, all things I have done on the fly before, but with more structure now. To accommodate this I built a new lesson plan template around our district’s Instructional Framework.
  2. Create More Meaningful Home Assignments – Last year I started creating weekly assignments that students had to complete with an adult. The adults had to make comments on the assignments, and I logged all the information. I have great data. This year I need to streamline those assignments to make them easier for families and also need to develop a less time-consuming method of data collection because I started running out of time to log all the information at the end of the year.
  3. Provide As Many Outside Resources as Possible – I have a unique opportunity this year because I am teaching Criminal Law and Constitutional Law to fill my classroom with guest speakers and to take field trips. If I don’t make this happen, I am doing a dis-service to my students.
  4. Boost the Confidence of My Students – I have always been a very supportive teacher, or at least I’d like to think so. But I need to make a real concerted effort this year to make sure I am doing something each day to make my students, each of them, feel successful and valued. I have added a time for praise into my lesson each day for this purpose, but I need to generally very purposeful about making my students feel good about what they are doing.
  5. Be Positive – The job we do is a hard one, one that can be overwhelming quickly, one that is often thankless. I can’t let any of this get to me this year. For a number of reasons last year, I had a rough school year, but I didn’t self-reflect on my feelings enough to pull myself up through it as much as I should have. This year I need to be more conscious of my feelings so that I can be as solid, steady, and positive as my students need me to be.

I’m excited this year. I have a great group of students coming in, an exciting teaching schedule. There is no reason for this year not to be my best year yet.

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