Swinging for the Fences

Teaching is not an easy feat.  As a new teacher, I’ve realized teaching is a whole new ballgame.  Like a rookie on a baseball team, I’ve benefited from the time on the sidelines: receiving support and encouragement from the veterans and mindfully observing the game as it’s played in real time.

The whole process leading up to the batter’s box has had me waiting on the bench – eager, but nervous.  After participating in many classroom observations and receiving strong support from the staff and faculty here at SBS, my initial trepidation has diminished immensely. My colleagues and mentors have offered sound advice and a wealth of knowledge that has provided me with the much needed courage and confidence to stand up and teach.

Since stepping foot on campus I have experienced many challenges here at Stoneleigh-Burnham. Having encountered many unfamiliar territories, I’ve matured a lot since the opening of school. I have coached the past two seasons, taken over the 8th grade Algebra class for the past four weeks and will soon conduct my own Economics class in the spring semester. Whether it’s in the classroom or on the playing field, I continue to pursue excellence as I learn what it takes to be an effective teacher.

I’ve learned that a teacher needs to cultivate a sound game plan before stepping foot into the classroom or on the field. As a student and an athlete, I did not fully grasp the rigor that is involved in the preparation before one teaches until I was actually handed the bat. Countless hours and many scrap pieces of paper are used trying to compile the perfect game plan. For somebody that strives for perfection, designing this plan can be an exhausting task. The fierce competitor inside me didn’t want to settle for anything less. It took a while to remind myself that there is no perfect formula when devising such a plan. I think that realization was the hardest thing to grasp when prepping for my first 8th grade Algebra class.

It’s always nice to fantasize about the ideal situation. Leading up to that first class, in my mind, my game plan was solid gold and I was determined it was going to work. I was going to go in there with all the information I obtained from the observations and the mentor meetings and absolutely hit it out of the park. The kids were going to soak up the information like sponges and that was that, no question about it.

Wow, I needed to pump my brakes… For one thing, there’s only so much one person can anticipate or forecast. As a teacher you almost have to think like a student or player when preparing your game plan. You have to anticipate which problems or obstacles or questions might arise when designing the plan. It’s very hard to be good at something right from the start. Just like in any other field, it takes repetition and time to hone your skills and become experienced…and good.

I wanted my students to succeed and be able to comprehend the information right off the bat. I thought that I would have to implement the perfect game plan to achieve my goal, but I’ve since learned that nothing can be absolutely perfect.

Recently I saw the film “Lombardi” about Vince Lombardi and gained a lot of insight from his inspirational life that I’m trying to implement in my teaching. One quote really stuck with me: “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we won’t catch it because nothing is perfect, but we are going to relentlessly chase it because in the process we will catch excellence.” Referencing that, I knew that if I worked my tail off and applied that to my teaching preparation philosophy, my students would catch excellence in the classroom and on the playing field in the process.

So far my entrance into teaching has been an enriching learning experience.  If I continue to put my best foot forward, I know good things will happen.

Carpe Diem.

– Mark Pohlman

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Filed under In the Classroom, The Faculty Perspective

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