This school year has, predictably, been a time of extreme effort on my part. I rarely have time to just sit and enjoy fun things, when I do sit I am usually working on a small present or reading the news.

I feel inadequate most days, knowing that there are so many more strategies I could be using, so many more data points I could be tracking, so many other things I could be teaching. I keep telling myself, “next year,” as if that means that this year’s inadequacies are somehow understandable and therefore I should stop worrying. Each day I go in, I teach the best I know, I learn more about these particular students and this grade level’s expectations and abilities, and I fit more pieces into the teaching puzzle.

“Next year” has a reassuring ring to it — I work so hard to try to meet the needs of all the children (24 at the moment, but up to 25 again soon I expect), and I am seeing progress. But I don’t see as much progress as I would like, I don’t know how many missed opportunities I have, and about once a week I have a moment when one student or another clearly doesn’t get what he or she needs. Next year I think that I will be able to predict many things and spot many things, and prepare in advance for many things (truth be told, a lot of the preparations from this year will serve for next year).

In the moment, I respond appropriately and catch many misconceptions, I predict what kids will need in advance most of the time, and my explanations are making sense to my students. We have a couple of long-term projects underway, and I am feeling comfortable modifying those as needed. Usually I overestimate their readiness and understanding of concepts and have to go back and fill in. But I am getting better at figuring things out quickly so we don’t waste too much time!

And one last niggling teaching issue I have been struggling with is balancing the good of the whole class with the excursions of individual students to specialists, not at the same time or for the same purposes. I cannot fill in the gaps for all of them, so have finally made the decision to stop trying. I will provide some students with less instruction in the “exploratory” instruction for this grade level, such as science and social studies. This saddens me because I think all students need to learn in a wholistic manner — but I have a responsibility to make sure that the most essential learning is taught. Perhaps next year I can figure out a way to incorporate everything.

Next year. Always next year. Next year I will be more knowledgeable. Next year I will be more organized. Next year I will be more prepared. Next year…

It’s good to think about a “next year” and so I will continue to give this year my all, knowing that these children are teaching me far more than I am teaching them.