The Top Ten Things I Learned (or was reminded of) from Being a Student Again

Here are my “aha” moments from my time spent as a student last month. During class, I would actually catch myself thinking, “Oh my gosh….” (then blah, blah,blah…whatever huge revelation I happened to make at the time).

So now, without further ado, here it is. I am now going to impart my wisdom upon you. (You’re very welcome.) 

10. (Healthy) Snacks are important. When I arrived on campus the first day, I had absolutely no idea what the class would entail, but I did know I was responsible for snacks the second day of class. I felt a lot of pressure, as I do have this blog with healthy recipes and all. After much agonizing, I decided upon muffins. Vegan muffins. Healthy vegan muffins. I couldn’t help myself. And shhh…I didn’t let anybody know they were vegan. And I didn’t bring home any leftovers. 

By the end of the first week, we were joking about the “Writing Project 15”.

9. The first day of class is overwhelming. It just is. After the first hour, I understood my expectations for the entire three weeks: a demo lesson complete with “my thinking as a teacher”, book club readings/discussions, 5 writing pieces, writing group meetings, an inquiry project that would extend over the course of the following school year, demonstration response letters for each demo, the presentation of one daily log, and utilizing the latest and greatest ways to incorporate technology into my teaching. Despite this, I willingly came back the next day.

8. Worry is inevitable (at least if you share my personality trait it is).  But in hindsight, it’s a huge waste of time and energy. But we knew this already, didn’t we? (And when I say “we”, I really mean “I”.) Here’s a glimpse of the conversations going on in my head…

What if I don’t know anybody? (There was another teacher from my district.) What am I going to wear on the first day? (Rest assured I wore clothes, but I have no idea what I wore, nor does anybody else.) Should I pack a lunch or bring money? (Covered both bases, as I brought lunch and money. Wound up eating the lunch I packed.) Where should I park? (Grabbed a spot in the first lot I saw. Reparked at lunch time in a much closer lot. Because NOBODY IS ON CAMPUS in the summertime, and the lots are basically empty.) What time do I need to leave home in order to make it on time? (About 20 minutes later than what I left the first day.) Where is my classroom? (Exactly where it was suppose to be. Go figure.) What if I can’t find my classroom? (Go home? Cry? Or perhaps check one of the gazillion “you are here” maps hanging on the walls.)

7.  If you are in a writing class, you need to write. (Go ahead and substitute whatever words you would like for writing and write. Idea is the same.) Some writing prompts will work. Some writing prompts won’t. It doesn’t really matter. Just write.

Each day, after general “housekeeping” announcements, and a log recounting the activities of the  previous day, we were given a prompt. Some days I dove in, some days I stared blankly at my computer screen. It didn’t take too long (okay, probably longer than necessary) to realize it was okay to work on some other piece of writing. And nobody yelled at me.

6. Book Clubs create opportunities for learning. And not just from the book. The best thing about Book Clubs is the opportunity to learn from the people reading the book along with you. I learned a lot from reading Revision Decisions. But I learned even more from discussing the book with others. And I included a picture, ‘cuz I be you are chomping at the bit to get your hands on this book! I inadvertently chopped off the authors, but just let me know if you’d like to know who wrote this.

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5. Hard work feels good. As overwhelmed as I felt throughout the class, nothing beat the satisfaction I felt after completing each task. Learning is a process that needs to be worked through. Life is not always easy. School is not always easy. This class was not always easy. But it was, oh, so worth it!

Along this line, I feel a need to get a bit snarky. I never once told my teachers that I was too busy to get my work done. My dog never ate my homework either. 

4. Assigned seats are awesome. It was a relief to walk into the classroom and see my name on table, designating the place I would be sitting. I didn’t have to play any mind games with myself about where to sit. Sit next to someone? Sit by myself? Sit at same table as someone but keep a spot open between? Sit by the window? Near the door? At the head of the table?

Now, had I walked into a class full of my best teacher friends, I would still think this is a great idea, as it would force me to get to know others. Seems fairly obvious. But it was a great reminder. When I taught elementary school, I often told my class that the best part about being a teacher was rearranging desks every month. I decided I probably was not kidding. Working with middle school kids, I have tables instead of desks. This past year I rearranged at the start of each quarter. This year I’m toying with the idea of new locations every week. Or maybe once a month. Still mulling this over.

3. Sharing writing is very personal. You need to be able to trust those who you are working with. It takes time to build trust. I was assigned to a writing group on my first day of class. We stayed together over the course of the class. We got to know each other extremely well. Our level of trust increased every single day. I looked forward getting their feedback on whatever it was I was working on. Next year…writing groups of three will last all semester.

2. Presenting to peers sucks. Okay, maybe not the actually presenting…just the thought of presenting. From the moment I found out I would have to present a demonstration lesson to the class, I felt sick to my stomach. Keep in mind I knew I was presenting to a very nonjudgemental group of people. And at no time did I judge those who presented. Mostly I was in awe of what great teachers they were. And when I wasn’t in awe, I was trying to figure out how I could incorporate their lesson into my own classroom. But it sucked nonetheless. I will now have more empathy for the reluctant “sharers” in my classroom.

1. Workshops are powerful. Especially in the reading and writing world. Nothing is better than being given the tools and inspiration, and then given the time to work. Except for being surrounded by a group of people who I could go to for inspiration and constructive criticism. 

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The best professional development for a teacher is anything that requires them to be put into the shoes of their students. So yes, I know exactly how my students are feeling the night before school starts. But personally, I can’t wait for school to start! I have so much I want to incorporate into my classroom! This thought will help me refrain from ripping up the “Back to School” ads I’m seeing.

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