Mistakes made this year

There have been many times this past year when I have wished I could go back and correct or redo something. I can really appreciate the struggles that new teachers face. There are an overwhelming number of new things to consider and so there are bound to be things overlooked or mistakes made. At my usual university job, when I think of something to fix or do better the next time I teach a course, I jot down notes to myself and I read those notes before teaching the course the next time.

This time, it’s unlikely that I’ll get to teach Algebra 1, Geometry or Algebra 2 to high school students any time soon. However, I’ll still write down my thoughts anyway.

One of the biggest mistakes that I made is that I didn’t plan in larger instructional units. My lesson plans tend to be conceived from week to week, day to day. My teaching this year lacks a larger architectural design and I’m sure this manifests itself in students who don’t see the forest for the trees. I haven’t been doing much foreshadowing (preview of coming attractions) in my teaching and so there are fewer connections between topics. I also did not realize the extent to which district, state or school tests impose themselves on my instructional choices; so many times I scrambled to “cover” something before a test instead of allowing the tests to do what they are meant to do–to assess students’ understanding of topics that they have already had the chance to master in my class.

I am a big fan of “backwards course design” (espoused by James McTighe and Grant Wiggins in Understanding by Design) and have even led professional development sessions about this kind of instructional design. But have I done much of it this year? No. I feel like such a hypocrite.

2 thoughts on “Mistakes made this year

  1. You are so tough on yourself! How could you possibly know how to think about the year holistically when you have never been through it?

    In the future, when you lead teacher development, I think you will have a greater appreciation for the challenges of implementing the ideas you have talked about. And that’s a good thing. And it doesn’t mean that the ideas are impossible to implement or invalid.

    I am a big fan of
    * first time do the best you can and cut yourself some slack
    * each next time, try to make AN improvement/try something new

    This is in the spirit of trying to enjoy work by keeping it fresh and experimenting with new ideas (and hopefully improvements), while not heading for burnout, self-criticism and demoralization by setting up unrealistic expectations.

    As I have said before, you have done a super job this year. You are a first year teacher (despite your previous experience) and I know you have planted some seeds that will grow, even after you are no longer there to water them.

  2. You’re asking way too much of yourself here. Your instructional materials should be providing the “big picture” and “preview” stuff that you are looking for, and it is almost impossible to do this right the first time through a curriculum anyway. While I doubt you’ll be teaching a second year, you’d find it would go smoother the second time through since you know the road and the turns.

    Backwards course design is also almost impossible in your situation when you have no idea exactly how long anything will take, or how much real teaching time you actually have to work with.

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