Monday, November 15, 2010

I've never considered myself to be a particularly organized person. My life tends to be made of piles of this and that, trails of where I've been scattered with remnants of what I was doing when I was there, and constant comments of "What was I doing?" as skitter scatter from task to task. I am perennially planning ahead, making lists, even lists of lists, trying to find order in the confusion, but always, I feel as if I am flying by the seat of my pants.

At school, my goal is always to be a week ahead. That may sound organized, I know, but in reality, without that week's cushion of 'stuff' planned ahead, I feel like the walls are pushing in on me, as I flounder day to day, wondering if I need copies for tomorrow (or even next hour..) and the interference of an unscheduled staff meeting before school, or a student who announces they are going to gone for a week starting in ... well, 5 minutes... can send my mind overboard.

Plans change, certainly, and within those week's worth of plans, there is always room for change and flexibility. However, I have a game plan, and if we get there slower than I planned, well, yahoo... I have more planned than I thought!

Being in the position I am in this year, in and out of other teachers' classrooms for much of my day, I am shocked at how many teachers fly by the seat of their pants, day to day, with no idea where they are headed the second half of the hour, much less tomorrow, or next week.

On the one hand, to each his/her own. Whatever works for you.

On the other hand, I, as your coteacher, your partner, your other half of the teaching team, NEED to know what's going on in order to help you, help my students, and be able to adequately plan my own time management. I am not an expert in your subject matter either, so a little time to prep for today's lesson helps me feel like I know what you are talking about, and helps me better help my struggling special needs students.

I am just confused and overwhelmed right now, wondering how to manage to keep my own head above water.

Beyond me, and even more importantly, it's about the kids, especially struggling students. They need a game plan, a logical attack of the material, a sequential presentation of facts, and how to think about and learn the material. How can they be expected to grasp the content when the game plan in the classroom is complete chaos?

I think the solution lies partly in teacher prep programs. Somewhere along the path of training new teachers, we need to teach organization, classroom management (both of student behaviors and the actual structure of what an effective classroom looks and works like), and the importance of these in how students learn.

School has to become more about the students and their success and comfort zones for learning than about the teachers and their own needs. I think more than having a special ed teacher, such as myself, in as a coteacher in these classes, providing support for classroom teachers through a coach that helps them create organized learning environments, ones in which students feel safe and comfortable in what is expected from day to day, would go farther in helping all students succeed than the current model we use.

Most days, in most classes, I am not much more than a glorified aid, cashing a teacher's paycheck. Wouldn't it make more sense to create a position that actually helps teachers help students?
But then again, do these fly by the seat of their pants teachers want to grow and learn and change...... maybe THAT is the real problem.....


Di Di Ross said...

As an education major rapidly approaching my semester of student teaching, I agree that teacher prep programs need to include a class centered on organization and classroom management skills. I find it helpful to understand the educational jargon I am learning, because I can more easily understand all of the debates and professional chatter centered around education reform and curriculum design. I appreciate learning (over and over again in at least three or four classes) about Bloom's taxonomy and Kohlberg's stages of moral development. I almost understand why I need two different classes that cover human physical development. However, I CRAVE practical training! Help me set priorities! How do I handle it when half of the class did not come prepared, when no one has a pencil and only a few have completed their homework? Which classroom configurations are best suited for flexible learning situations, so that I can go from individual assignments to group projects and back again with minimal chaos? How do I handle the intense parents, and what about the indifferent parents? Teach me about the administrative maze and how to navigate it effectively! Show me ways to avoid burnout and to bounce back after a bad day in the classroom. These are the things that are not taught in my program, and I am convinced that these are the things that will plague me the most as I begin teaching. Every new teacher wants to be effective--show us how to become what we really need to be!

cossondra said...

You are so right, DiDi. Day to day teaching isn't about the intelligences or Bloom's taxonmy. Those things tend to fall into place when an effective teacher looks critically at their lessons/instructions.

The tides that overwhelm teachers are the day to day tidbits that are so overwhelming. In a TEACHER magazine article, I tackled some of those. Check it out at

Learning from other successful, organized teachers can make a huge difference in how you structure those busy bits that suck up so much of your time. I will try to tackle some of your other concerns in upcoming posts.

Thanks for reading!