What I’ve Learned From a Return to the Classroom

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Over the past four weeks, I have had the opportunity to be back in the classroom — as a teacher. We are currently short-staffed, so I have been teaching a class called Academic Perseverance. The class focuses on social-emotional learning and executive functions, but there is significant latitude for creativity and pursuit of topics the kids will enjoy. It is only one forty-minute class, but it has served as a great reminder of what is required to be effective in the classroom (especially one filled with junior high students). Here are a few of the things I have “re-learned:”

Planning for effective instruction is a lot of work. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time prepping for this ONE class, but it is what I feel has been needed to be prepared and make things meaningful for the kids.

Even the principal has to stay on top of classroom management. My class has been fantastic, but they have kept me on my toes. As you might suspect, a room full of adolescents can have a lot of energy, and keeping that energy focused on good, and not evil, takes deep breathing, mindfulness, and lots of patience.

Kids want to have a voice in the classroom. I’ve worked really hard to allow students to have a say in how we operate as a class, and the direction we take with some of our activities and discussions. Giving kids a voice in the classroom helps make learning purposeful and relevant.

Even the best-made plans can go awry. There have been a few days that my lessons (in spite of planning) have just fallen flat. I have had the opportunity to feel the energy level of students ebb and flow. Sometimes I have been able to do something about it, other times — not so much. Live and learn. Each day is a new day!

You can build positive relationships and have a great time teaching without losing the class, or your sanity. It takes effort. It takes persistence. It takes flexibility. It takes empathy. But it can be done.

Junior high kids have a great sense of humor. I have laughed every day that I have been teaching. Every single day. One of my favorite moments was the five minutes we spent discussing Oscar Mayer’s new Ice Dog Sandwich. At the end of the discussion, one of the students raised his hand and asked, “Mr. Delp, who’s Oscar Mayer.” I am not ashamed to say that I gave a musical response. My bologna has a first name…It’s O.S.C.A.R…

Teaching is tough! Teaching this ONE class just affirms what I already knew. Educators are incredible. Hats off to all of you teachers who do this all day, every day. Being a teacher is hard work and you don’t get the credit you deserve. Thank you for your investment in our students!

We shall see how long my teaching experiment continues, but I can already tell that the longer it goes on, the harder it will be for me to leave the classroom. You start to get attached to those kiddos. I’m thinking that teaching at least one class might be a reasonable requirement for all administrators.

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