Jan 6, 2010

What Keeps YOU Going?

I know my practice is evolutionary. I know my lessons undergo a gradual development process. Unlike my first year, where I blindly moved forward with the planning process, I now have years to look back on. Time to teach slope? I got an activity for that AND I can anticipate where my students will have trouble. Let's make things better this time around.

The trouble now is committing myself to that process of evolution. I admit, there are days where I don't think about teaching AT ALL the moment I step off campus until I step back on. All that's required is opening up those digital files I toiled over in years past and, BAM, a lesson plan is in my hands.

It's a beautiful thing, I know. But, it's a trap. The last thing I want is to become a robot teacher who rehashes the same ol' plan year after year. I want evolution.

It happens, it does. (The x & y-intercept lesson I taught last year pales in comparison to the one I did this time around.) But, not all the time. The process is fueled by motivation, and it's difficult to maintain that motivation when you tend to your non-teacher self's non-teacher needs. Why spend any time at all on my planning when I don't need to? Why better myself when I don't need to?

How do I stay motivated?

Thus, I wonder what other teachers do to keep up their process of evolution, hop on supteach, and blog about. What do y'all do? How do you stay motivated?


Sue VanHattum said...

I've been teaching for over 20 years.

There are times I do very little prep. But I've always still read about teaching and math, and even before I became a blog junkie, I would now and then see new ideas I really wanted to try.

This year I'm on sabbatical, working on a book, and I'm thinking lots about how to change my practice. I wish I were teaching one class this year, so I could try this stuff out now. :^)

I sometimes find myself coming up with great new ideas as I'm in the middle of teaching a lesson. That's exciting.

Good luck. If you keep loving your work, I'm sure you'll discover yourself improving over time in ways you hadn't expected.

Lsquared said...

Weird student mistakes always catch my imagination. If someone comes in and talks to me long enough for me to figure out just how deep their misunderstandings are (usually deeper than I think), it provides me with a great puzzle to solve: how can I teach this to this student, and then, how can I teach this to all of the other students like this (when I don't even know how many there are).

Eyawn said...

Sue, 20 years! Congratulations. Are you writing a book on teaching? I'm intrigued! I agree when you say "I sometimes find myself coming up with great new ideas as I'm in the middle of teaching a lesson. That's exciting."

It's something I haven't really put to words before, but lessons go through a mini-evolution on a daily basis. By period 6, the small discoveries I make about how to teach better shine. Oftentimes, those little discoveries can be expanded and deepened immediately.

LSquared, agreed! On rough days, I can look at tutoring as a chore. "I'm done teaching. Leave me alone." But the tutoring is always beneficial. Not only for the student, but for the teacher.

Riley said...

Writing a blog has been a great motivator for me in the last couple of months, though I have yet to see what kind of longevity this motivation has.

I think a big aspect of motivation is the creativity in combining multiple fields. I am a summer camp director and think as deeply as I can about child development and building community in short, intense bursts during the summer. I am also a math teacher and need to develop ways to communicate topics in math, and to lead students to a study of learning itself. I am also a computer programmer, and I love learning about new platforms and technologies and using them.

I get motivation for all three of these roles from the fact that I have all three of these roles. Do you see what I mean? When I'm in the classroom, my focus on community building from the summer motivates me to build community in my class, and my focus on programming in my free time inspires me to build software for my class or to teach my students to program.

I don't know if any three interests intersect in equally useful ways, but my three sure go together well, and keep me motivated to improve in all! I'd be interested to hear about others'.

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