#Eds1stYear: Keepin’ it Real

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#Eds1stYear: Keepin’ it Real

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When I first began teaching in September my goal was to document my first year teaching experience daily through journal entries, brief anecdotes and this blog. As time progressed I realized that my time as a first year teacher was very limited and whenever I had free time I would rather participate in a mindless activity rather than reflect on my experiences as a first year teacher. At this point, I have found enough energy to share my thoughts, successes, failures and essentially my raw emotions as it relates to teaching. Where do I begin…

To start, I love my school. The administration is always available to provide support when requested and my principal is always open to trying new ideas. The staff and most of my fellow teachers are the same; they are dedicated to providing the best educational experience to our students.

As someone who has extensive experience in urban education I would describe my recent tenure as a full time teacher as a professional rollercoaster, with many ups and downs, successes and failures. Actually being an integral part, as i would hope, of the NYC education system I am more aware and even experience the daily struggles that most teachers, administers and even students face day to day.

I’ll begin with my personal experience. In the months of September through November, I was eager and excited to engage students who were from the same community as me. I was teaching my students the only way I knew how, which is what I learned as a student teacher and as a student in a pre-service training program. I thought I was equipped with all of the tools necessary to come off of the bench to be an effective teacher. Little did I know, I was wrong. I soon realized that the way that i engaged my students was the same way that my teachers engaged me when I was a student in these same schools. I would lecture and assign assignments that encouraged students to regurgitate information back to me. I realized that this is not true teaching and that my students were not thinking in my classroom. On top of learning that my teaching practices were not as effective as they should be, students in my grade were forming cliques and the number of incidents caused by students began to slowly rise. Planning quality lessons began to become a challenge, classroom management began to become a challenge and my desire for teaching was dying. There were many days where I had to force myself to walk into the school building and constantly counted down the days of the week for a desperate race to the end of Friday.

Winter break arrived and was the first time in months where I had absolutely no responsibilities for teaching or my graduate classes. It was my time to mentally reset, and I did. I returned to school with a clear mindset, eager to face the challenges of my first year teaching. Upon my return from winter break, I became sterner with students; I began to hide my personality and began utilizing many different teaching practices to find which myself and students preferred. We tried a hands on lab where I introduced students to a triple beam balance and it was a disaster for some classes. I was hesitate to try more hands on activates thinking my students “couldn’t handle it.” After a conversation with my principal about the entire school moving toward teaching practices that really encourage student thinking and learning in the classroom, I reflected on why I initially became a science teacher. I realized by not thinking that my students were ready or couldn’t handle certain activities was actually robbing them of valuable science experiences, just as I had been robbed in middle school. No matter how annoying, or misbehaved some students are, I have no right to keep such engaging science experiences from them. It is my responsibility to create spaces where students are able to develop their sciencemindedness. With that said, it is easy to succumb to the ideals of other teachers who believe it’s impossible to reach certain students or who don’t believe in the capabilities of our students. But I will not allow myself to reach that dark point again. No matter how challenging a situation may seem, I will always recall my purpose for teaching science in my community.

After some reflecting, I have realized that I now truly believe in the abilities of my students and my ability to teach. I’m ready let go, not worry about teacher observations, and create amazing and memorable science experiences for my students. This is something that I believe every teacher needs to realize in order to become a remarkable educator.

These are just my thoughts, right or wrong, just what I was feeling at the time.
-Edmund S. Adjapong

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