Starting Over

Ok so I have a confession to make. One of my guilty pleasure movies as a kid was Men At Work. If you haven’t seen this Estevez brother piece of art then I recommend checking out the trailer below before you continue reading.

Awesome right?!?! Even as a young youth I knew how ridiculous the premise was. I mean two good looking guys like Emilio and Charlie are garbage men? In my young mind all garbage men looked like Duke the Dumpster Dorsey. There is no way these two were garbage men! Not them Estevez boys! Of course there’s also the whole plot of the movie. SPOILER ALERT! Two garbage men who want to open a surf shop who stop an illegal toxic dumping ring.

Trash man of the WWF and currently a Special Education teacher.

Trash man of the WWF and currently a Special Education teacher. No seriously he is!

So what does this have to do with education? Well as a teacher sometimes we need to take out the trash in our classrooms both literally and figuratively. Sometimes we literally take out the trash like the Estevez brothers and Duke The Dumpster. I am always shocked at the end of the day by how much trash the students leave behind but someone has to clean it up so guess who becomes the trash man. Sometimes we need to admit that a lesson or idea that we had isn’t as good as we thought and throw it out the window.

How do we do this? First things first reflect on your lessons. On your drive home from work think about what was good, what was meh, and what you need to throw out from that day. I know it’s scary but it’s ok to admit “Well that sucked.” Once you admit that you can move forward and make things better. At the same time make sure that you celebrate your victories no matter how small they are. Maybe today’s lesson was the first time that your “favorite” student actually turned in work. In the words of Johnny Drama “VICTORY!” Take mental and physical notes that you can refer to the next time you give that lesson. We all heard during our teacher preparation programs that reflection is a powerful tool so use it! Bonus Tip! If you teach with PowerPoint or Google slides you can use the notes section to record your reflections. Before giving this lesson again take a look a those notes and make adjustments!

Celebrate your small victories!


Step number two, modify your lessons. Maybe the whole lesson didn’t suck only a small part did. Well change it! If it a certain element completely bombed in 2nd period change it by the time 3rd period starts. Albert Einstein said it best when he defined insanity as the art of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet day by day some teachers do the same thing in their classroom and expect students to change. It’s not going to happen. Modify modify modify! If a lesson still is bombing then maybe it’s time to call Duke The Dumpster or the Estevez brothers and throw that lesson out.

Finally be open to change. There is nothing wrong with changing your teaching style. Like I said earlier sometimes my style changes based on the period. If something didn’t work with my 2nd period class I change it for my 3rd period. If it kills in 3rd period guess what I’m using for 4th period? Don’t be afraid of change. While a change can seem scary, reframe the situation and look at it as a new challenge. Instead of complaining about it, think about it like a new puzzle that you need to solve. As Bruce Lee said:

Be like water.

So what brought all this on. Well my first 5 weeks of school were meh. A new school, new grade level, new subject matter, a new classroom set up (I used to have a 1:1 lab), and most importantly a new daughter meant overwhelmed Ryan. While I didn’t do a horrible job, I know I can do better. Over the past few days I have been planning a unit that I feel will be better. While I’m sure that it will need tweaking and editing, I was able to use the three skills that I discussed earlier to throw out the things that weren’t working in my classroom and try and add new elements I believe will be successful. Part of this unit will require my students to blog a weekly status update. In the spirit of modeling, I will be doing the same thing. I can’t expect my students to do it if I wouldn’t do it myself. First update will be in a few weeks! Until then please enjoy this video of  a cat in a shark costume chases a duck while riding a roomba. My student’s love it.

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