Rebecca Ritenour has been an educator for 15 years, she is a member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team. Her thoughts were first published July 17, 2013.
After 15 years in the classroom, I realize that I am nearly to the halfway point of my career. At this point, it would be easy to put myself on autopilot. After all, I’ve taught every grade and ability level at my school and accomplished a lot in my career. But that’s not me. I can’t do the autopilot thing. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my own teaching and to gain more knowledge that I can apply in the classroom. It’s that drive that led me to pursue and earn my National Board Certification. It’s that drive that sees me working alongside other English/Language Arts teachers in my state capital every year as we review items that will appear on our state’s standardized literature exams.
So, when I noticed a blurb in a National Board newsletter about LearnZillion and applying to be part of their 2013 “Dream Team”, I thought “Why not?” I had no idea what I was about to experience.
LearnZillion’s purpose is to provide instruction to students all over the world as well as support parents and teachers in the process. Who knew that LearnZillion would actually be teaching ME a thing or two? Here’s what LearnZillion and the Dream Team experience has taught me that I will carry with me into my own classroom this fall.
1. Thinking is hard. Thinking hard is harder. All of it is worthwhile when you have a goal you believe in. When we see a real purpose for what we’re doing, we are much more likely to be engaged, to internalize corrections, to be resilient in the pursuit of the goal, and to be proud of the achievement when we’ve reached the goal.
2. I am not alone. Others are on this journey. That is comforting. Whenever I start to think that I am the only person out there who is experiencing struggle, doubt, or insecurity, it helps to know that there is an entire community out there who understands and can offer support. They, too, know these struggles. It is also awesome to know that when it’s time to celebrate even the smallest victory, that same community is there to cheer me on.
3. Missing the mark is the only way to truly learn and improve. Mistakes are not just an annoying part of life, they are an ESSENTIAL part of the process. They lead us to the next step and the next and the next. They move us towards our goal.
4. Getting the best out of someone takes time. Don’t be satisfied with “good” when “better” or “best” is possible. Don’t expect to arrive at “best” immediately. Be receptive to the guidance of those who have gone before you. Feedback that is offered in a supportive and encouraging way always gets me back on my feet and ready to start again.
5. There will always be bumps in the road. Laugh, learn, and leave them behind. (Note to self: remove the dog’s collar before using Screencastomatic to record lessons. Even when you do, the chipmunk outside will inevitably catch the dog’s attention just as you get to the last slide in your video anyway.)
I don’t quite have time to reflect on all of this fully, but when I do I will have an even better understanding of what my role as a teacher entails because of the Dream Team experience. The classroom that I create this year may very well be the best one I’ve crafted yet and what LearnZillion has LearnZillion has taught me will be an essential part of each and every school day. (Well, except for that dog thing…he has to stay home and protect us from those chipmunks!)