I have been thinking a lot recently about how relationships change over time. Interpersonal, intrapersonal, student-to-teacher, and teacher-to-curriculum. Thinking about how I see these changes reflected in my teaching career, from my time student teaching and through the last four years as lead teacher, and into my fifth year.
I began my journey of student teaching thinking that I had more freedom to be flexible with the curriculum and to teach my students on their level. I also thought that if I was always kind, I could make deeper connections with my students. In a short time, my relationship with the students and curriculum was forced to change. During student teaching I was told to use scripted literacy and math learning programs (which were not productive for all students), and I learned that if I was too quiet, certain students would walk all over me. I experienced similar demands for scripted learning programs in my first two years as a teacher.
My relationship with the students changed even more as I transitioned to a Title 1 school and my population of students changed. I had interned in schools with lower socioeconomic populations, but I had not been in a position of leadership. I did not understand all of the problems that I would have to contend with. In those two years, I started to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs I was using. We used the literacy program Letterland. Most of my students were engaged; however, we had some hiccups. Letterland was very detailed in the scripted passages that we read to students. It was not the same as the give-and-take of conversations, and it was heavy on verbal directions, which was often hard for some of my students to process.
After two years I moved to a new area and worked in a school with a different population of students (financially), and more parent involvement. That was also the first time that I went off-script for my lessons. The shift was shocking and immediate; it drastically changed my relationship with the curriculum.
My students are all still assigned to regular education home rooms, and still have to participated in regular benchmarks and literacy assessments. Yet, they function two or more years below their chronological age, in at least one category (academic areas, physical development, and social/emotional areas). How do I design instruction that will keep them tracking with their class as much as possible, and still have time to address their individual needs and IEP goals. I am still struggling today, although I am doing a better job balancing this relationship. Just last month we were informed that Letterland will be implemented district-wide within a year. I’m not sure yet how I feel about this change, and step backwards.
Now that I am pursuing a masters degree, my relationship with school (and especially literacy) is shifting again. I am re-experiencing the student-teacher dynamic, and relearning what it means to be in a student role. My classes are forcing me to re-imagine the relationship that I have with my current students, and what I will have in the future. I am having to look at the core elements of what makes up our classroom dynamic, and consciously think about ways to change it for the better. It may take some time, but the experiences of this course will certainly help to change my teaching practice for the future.