My first year of teaching full-time is over, and with it my Alternate Route classes as well. (In New Jersey, as in many other states, you can go to school for a teaching certificate if you have a Bachelors Degree, but only in subject areas where you have enough credits.) Both my last day of work and my last Alternate Route class were yesterday, though my students were done last Friday. Now I can sit back and as many teachers do, reflect on the year past.
Overall, on the teaching end of things, I think I had a good year. Certainly there is room for improvement, as I’m not even going to begin to claim I’ve mastered the craft of teaching; however, for a first year teacher, I think I did fairly well. My students produced good work, many of them seemed to enjoy my class and they were all on task and learning on a daily basis. What’s more, I feel I did fairly well at managing my classrooms this year (an essential element to teaching).
Of course, there are things I feel need improvement. First and foremost, though I’m proficient and knowledgeable in my subject areas, teaching what I know is something else all together. It’s really amazing how you can have a wealth of knowledge about and experience in an area, but then have difficulty explaining the concepts and techniques to someone who is coming to it for the first time. As my Tae Kwon Do instructor always said, teaching is a great way to really analyse and think about what it is you do.
I think I could have added even more art history into some of my lessons or at least offer more information (I really need to brush up on a few artists and movements). More visuals and lengthier demo lessons before projects I think would help, as well. I’ve also toyed with the idea of having class periods where the students get to experiment and practice with new materials before they go on to their finished work. And, as is somewhat a perpetual problem in art classes, I do have to work on my pacing.
Of course, that’s just the teaching stuff. Outside of my teaching job, it was an extremely difficult year for me. In fact, I was told it was unusually hard for a first year teacher. Aside from the few freelance jobs I was able to take on (I’m still behind on a few) and launching my web-comic just as the school year was starting (it was my plan all along, and I didn’t know if I would have a teaching job this year when I originally made the decision), I had to go back to school certain nights and weekends in order to get my teaching certificate. What’s more, on either side of the Winter Break, two of my grandparents passed away (as I’ve written about previously) and, later, my friend and fellow writer, Bill Baker (who was instrumental in my decision to bring Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows to the web). Then, of course, there is my lovely girlfriend and her daughter–a great addition to my life, but another big commitment on my plate this year.
I felt like I was constantly being pulled in twenty different directions, and couldn’t give my new post a proper amount of attention–especially during the winter when the three deaths hit me in succession. It was a difficult balancing act, and many times I would say that I didn’t think I could handle one more thing happening. Of course, as is my character, I didn’t let that stop me. I braced up and saw it through to the end. But this isn’t the end, now is it?
The summer is already shaping up to be a busy one, between Chadhiyana, my outstanding freelance jobs, new freelance work coming in, a mentorship (my first), some other good personal moves in my life, and preparing for next school year. (Yes, I was approved to return next year.) That said, it’s my hope to find a better balance between work and play over the summer as I head into year two of my teaching position.
It’s really a wonderful job, and I’ve enjoyed this first year, despite the many obstacles I’ve faced. My schedule was good, my students were great, and I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie with my co-workers as well. I only hope year two is a lot less hectic and stressful. I’m exhausted, but that’s no reason to start slowing down. I’ve got about two months to take a break from teaching and concentrate on some writing and art projects. Let’s make it count. Then I can go back refreshed in the Fall.