List of Fives; or Dear Diary, School is over and I’m feeling introspective.

One of my twitter “friends” is Maria Andersen. I guess I shouldn’t say “friend” because although I read her tweets and blog, she doesn’t know me (and I’m not the prolific blogger she is– yet). But I’m quite sure we would be friends if geography and circumstances were different. I like that she is reflective and it seems to me she has good systems in place. Or at least I have inferred that, based upon the extraordinary schedule she seems to keep. Recently on her blog she offered a list of fives– five questions with five answers she uses to create an optimum working environment with her assistants. I’m intrigued because I love lists, those neat and tidy bundles of facts and concreteness… which often guide me out of the concrete and into some more abstract and wandering thought. I need to be guided into such a space regularly, and so I offer the beginnings of my List of Fives.

From @busynessgirl ‘s Blog:

1. What are your five biggest strengths?

  • connecting with people
  • connecting people with other people (networking)
  • renovating/revamping existing curriculum/plans
  • organizing/administrative/planning tasks
  • group work/coming to consensus/working through blocks/synthesizing seemingly divergent perspectives

2. What are five things that you enjoy learning about?

  • things that are pretty – food, home
  • healthy living – mind/body, work/life balance, intro/extrovert care
  • organizational psychology and development – group dynamics
  • things that are clever – new ways of looking at something familiar

3. What are five topics you’d like to learn about that are unfamiliar to you?

  • flipped classroom concept – what do I do with classtime?
  • enlivening Algebra with technology
  • how to teach students effective group work practices
  • feedback/grading practices that feel feasible/palatable to me. I hate grading papers. But talking over a problem with a student, that’s something I could do all day.

4. What are five skills or strengths that you’d like to get better at?

  • connecting with students individually in order to guide them better
  • not procrastinating (for example, get my copies made the day before, not that morning!)
  • taking care of myself so I have more to give every day
  • finishing things (oh, the irony of all of the unfinished lists of fives here)

5. What are your five favorite sources of inspiration? [books/websites/articles/poems/videos/songs]

  • my twitter feed of people I’ve met at EdCamps
  • NAIS
  • ASCD
  • Anna Blinstein and others in my math department, in large part because we disagree well. I love our discussions and long for more time to collaborate. My division colleagues are terrific as well. I really am enlivened by discussion.

I haven’t even completed my Fives… and my mind is reeling. I had intended to rework some curriculum this summer; much of it was handed down to me and I haven’t really made it my own yet (it’s very good as it is, I’d just like to feel some ownership in it and make it fit me better). I was intending to do some flipped work because it can benefit the students; from reading my list and chewing on some other peripheral thoughts I’m realizing I want to focus my efforts on how to change my curriculum and teaching style so that it benefits ME. How very selfish, says the voice in my head. I want to be a teacher for a long time, I reply, and I want my classes to fit me. I want a personalized, sustainable pace, tempo, environment, feel, milieu… I want healthy and happy me, and healthy and happy students. I think if I focus my efforts this summer on how to make the course fit my personality and passions better, I’ll be happier and I’ll feel more authentic in my classroom. Which will lead to stronger relationships with students. And a happier teacher.

Five surprising revelations I’ve had from this exercise so far:

  • I really want to connect one-on-one with students more
  • I need quiet time and space every day; I need to nurture my introvertedness and care for it. I want to have only one tab open in my browser more often, literally and figuratively.
  • Maybe I should be a Home Ec teacher
  • I want to connect with adults more often than I do now
  • I think I’m over-inspired. Too much twitter, blogs, pinterest… I need to connect with what is inside me and start there.

Note-to-self caveat: it’s the last day of school. I’m exhausted physically and mentally. Nothing about Algebra interests me at the moment. But I remember days of working in corporate America, marketing textbooks or building houses, and I rest in the truth I know: I love teaching immeasurably more. Don’t run off and join a circus, Kath; rather, reflect and journal. No tabs open, no twitter notifications binging.

Perfect summer instructions.

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