August 22 is a bad day.
2 years ago this date was the worst day.
I didn’t know when I took that picture, which I’m sure most readers will recognize as the Twelve Apostles, that I was just a few hours away from what would be the first of many hospital admissions, blood tests, IV lines and instances of thinking to myself ‘are you old enough to be a doctor?’
So perhaps this date was a rather inauspicious one for me to start my first block of full control for this placement.
The first two sessions went ok but by the third session the junior juggle turned into a junior jungle. I’m not going to sugar coat it, that session was an absolute disaster. Students off task, students excluding others, getting students attention to bring us all back to earth was a herculean task and yes my associate teacher had to step in a few times. The children were in charge in that class and not in a good way.
I went to lunch absolutely dejected and made the worst mistake of all, I complained about how awful that session went with another student teacher. Sure the snarking might have been therapeutic in the short term but I should have put my energy into figuring out how I might be able to improve my situation because there was something I could do differently.
Even though I had a well-planned lesson and some awesome classroom management strategies up my sleeve, I also had something I needed to work on my voice. I am one of those people who has a voice which carries especially when I’m excited.
Having a voice which can cut through chatter definitely has its bonuses in teaching but there was a problem, in the classroom my and my students energy levels were feeding off each other. I can be quite loud and animated which has a tendency to make the students the loud and animated. This got to the point where we had one very loud and animated classroom. Once my voice and energy levels dropped off, the class became a lot easier to manage and I was working with the kids energy rather than against it.
Sure enough by Thursday I was getting through my groups and my associate commented that two of the hardest to reach students in the class were engaged and volunteering in the maths warm up. As more lessons were going to plan, I started to praise not just good behaviour but also thinking and effort. For their part the students were eager to share what they were proud of and what they would differently on the task next time which is the learning conversations I wanted to have with them. I ended my week in a state of teaching bliss, students engaged in different tasks around the classroom with some music on in the background. Something I wouldn’t have imagined as possible on Monday.
Even though I hated it at the time, I’m really glad I had my bad day. We all have moments in the muck of feeling angry and frustrated and GAH why is it all so hard and none of it is my fault grrr, grrr, grrr. Those moments totally are important and necessary but just as necessary is finding a way out of those moments and back to “ok, that sucked. What can I do to deal with it now?”
Even on Monday’s walk home I was mulling over stuff I wanted to do the next day, week, month and year despite being absolutely exhausted which is a very good sign. By Friday then events of Monday had quickly faded into the past and I spent 2 hours after school leaping around to Lady Gaga at the gym when by all rights I should have been collapsed on a sofa somewhere after my first week of full control in the juniors.
I also think that bad days also have another purpose. They serve as a reminder that learning is messy, hard and much like time not a linear process. There are hours of my life which I remember better than I do entire years, conversely events that seems like a huge deal at the time can quickly fade into a hazy memory.
This time last year I was trudging the streets of Philadelphia with the events of the Great Ocean Road still very much dominating my thoughts. This year it didn’t actually hit me that Monday was the day until about 9.30 that evening when Facebook’s new feature of posting old status updates bought the events of August 22, 2009 sharply back into focus. A few tears were shed for the possibilities of a different August 22, 2009 and then I went to sleep knowing that except for this post I probably won’t remember August 22, 2011 as a bad day.
But I will remember to keep my voice down.