Mjoen – Shelf Life of Your Dreams
The first year in your own classroom comes with a lot of dreams that have accumulated since the day you knew you were meant to teach. Dreams of meeting YOUR students. Dreams of teaching math in new ways with real world connections in every lesson. Dreams of building relationships with colleagues that would invite new ideas and community into your classroom. Dreams of spirit days where dressing weird makes you cool. Dreams of reaching that one student who never saw the potential in themselves. Dreams of amazing behavior management that would result in no detentions. Dreams of a school culture where everyone is encouraging and is open to new things. Dreams of not disappointing yourself or your admin. Dreams of never failing. Dreams of students no longer hating math because you are their teacher. Dreams of finally implementing the amazing things you learned and saw in college. These were just some of my dreams before my first day in my own classroom. Some of them I saw come to life, some of them needed a shelf life. A shelf life I didn’t want to accept. I quickly learned that putting dreams on the shelf doesn’t mean you won’t see them come alive, it just isn’t there time to shine yet.
My first year was amazing and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. The first year is the hardest and deserves the highest reward for making it through. There were so many moments in my classroom where my heart was overflowing with passion and love for my job. There were also a handful of moments I wanted to quit and truly asked myself, what am I doing? Is this right? I was teaching in a very traditional way that I knew deep down was not what was best for kids. After seeing all of the new innovative ways to teach in college, my heart was having a hard time accepting that this was how I was running my classroom. I didn’t feel like I was using my strengths to the fullest and I felt torn between what was realistic to expect of myself and the dreams on the shelf that I so badly wanted to use. I promised myself that once my first year was over, I would return to my dreams I had put on the shelf and give them a chance to shine.
After completing my first year of teaching, having a full summer to prep, and now two months into my second year, my shelf dreams have come alive. I am no longer teaching traditionally where students are just staring at me while I model math problem after math problem on the board. I am now using the grid method, a framework for personalized learning and mastery learning where I get to watch students own their learning as they navigate through the grid. In my classroom I am seeing community, student ownership, stronger relationships, more one on one time with every kid, and a true love for learning. Is it perfect? Heck no! Was setting this dream on the shelf worth it? YES! This is our first year using standards-based grading and The GRID Method is a great framework to use alongside it. It creates an environment in my classroom that allows for students to goal set and reflect as they master each standard. I had to keep reminding the discouraging voices in my head, your time will come. I am loving the days where I get to create our next grid and no longer dread creating my lesson plans. My dreams were on that shelf to remind me of my goals and why I teach. It taught me to accept what I was only capable of handling that first year, and that dreams really do take time. The shelf of our dreams keeps us humble, keeps us human, and can invite us into a grace filled space for us to rest.