My professional beginnings were spent teaching physical education and health. After a year-long stop in the elementary PE world, I spent the next 5 years with the awesome high school students of Cary, NC.
If I am being honest, that first year amounted to what some might call a rocky start. While mistakes are common for any teacher, the mistakes I made that first year were especially embarrassing. I was all over the place. I gave the students a 5 minute in-class break on the days we were in the classroom, introduced all kinds of ridiculous rules, and let anything and everything get to me. I also took on unfamiliar topics without adequate preparation.
This particular day the topic was archery. I should have seen archery as a red flag. I had coworkers who refused to teach archery. I just had to be the energetic new teacher who exposed her students to the fun sports. It turns out, teaching archery to a crowd of 15 year-olds requires extreme organization and planning. To my credit, I really thought I had done enough to prepare. I even took the time to arrange the students in rows for practice. I had not, however, taken the time to practice for my own demonstration or adequately think through my instructional procedures. This oversight resulted in an embarrassing display that involved both holding the bow upside down and completely missing the target.
Although we were lucky enough to make it through the class without any injuries, I can confidently tell you that attempting to retrieve an arrow from a target while your neighbor is still practicing is bad news. Needless to say, that first year offered a whole host of lessons learned from what are now humorous anecdotes to my story.
In my recent move to instructional design and educational technology, I have been amazed at just how similar the lessons have been. My video narration always sounds better if I have rehearsed prior to recording. The time to learn about collaborative computer applications is before my online class begins. I am more efficient with Captivate or Storyline if I take the time to design a template before populating slides. Despite my almost compulsive need to get to the meat of a project, it pays to take a moment to prepare my space.
Experience truly is the greatest teacher. It has been 17 years since I was a first year high school teacher and the value of proper preparation is still etched in my mind. A lesson I owe in part to first year teacher Jenny.
We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success. It’s part of the success!”
— Arianna Huffington
Do you have lessons learned (embarassing or not) from your professional beginnings? I would love to hear about them…