Me: Do you guys know why you were asked to be part of this group? 3rd grader: My mom says I don’t socialize right. I either hide in my books or I talk too much. No ‘happy middle’ for me. And I was like, ugh, sorry mom.
I think the best way to set the tone for this post is to admit that the first time I began writing it in the middle of last week I entitled it How to Win Week One. I was going to give all these flawless tricks on what to do to nail your first week of teaching- and then, well, life happened.
I was going to tell all the rising teachers out there how to win week one because by Tuesday I felt I had won. And then by Wednesday I lost all of my students’ temporary lunch cards and most of my students are new and have no idea what their lunch numbers are (sidebar: still have yet to find them and I spend ten minutes of a twenty five minute lunch spelling last names for our wonderful lunchroom staff who are kind and patient with me even when I know my mistake is a big inconvenience for them). By Thursday I was still not sticking to my schedule- which I hadn’t stuck to the first two days either but had given myself leniency on that. And by Friday I had my first walk through and I had forgotten to write my objectives on the board, my word wall still hadn’t become interactive, all the books in my library still weren’t leveled, I am still learning everything about this new curriculum, and I didn’t have actual lesson plans only big ideas written on a small calendar. By the end of week one I deleted that original post because the truth of the matter is that there are no flawless tricks to winning when it comes to your first year. You survive, you make sure your kids survive, and somewhere in the tangled mess of things you begin to find your footing.
You see the hardest part about being a new teacher is admitting that you are a new teacher to yourself. Yes, you should proudly proclaim that it is your first year teaching because it’s not a title you should cower from, but what I have found to be the most difficult part is admitting to myself that I am a new teacher. You see, like most teachers who love teaching, this has been my dream since I was a child. It’s the longest commitment I’ve made in my life so far. Some people can say they’ve been married for 30 years or have gotten their haircut at this same salon for 15 years. Well at my worldly age of 22, I can very honestly say that I’ve known I was a teacher for 12 years of my life- over half. And so with over a decade of clarity as to what I was purposed for in life it is hard for me to think of myself as a “new” teacher.
And so, whether I really ever knew this or not -over the past twelve years of knowing that I was a teacher, and over the past four years of going thousands and thousands of dollars into debt to pursue my purpose, and after dedicating the past year of my life to waking up early and staying after school late as I student taught from summer to the end of the school year and feeling like I so vividly made a difference there, I have long since stopped considering myself a “new” teacher. That’s what makes the first year the hardest- not to admit to others but coming to terms with the “new” within myself.
You see, somehow in the midst of sacrifices and perseverance and failures turned victories, aspiring teachers grow wings. You grow wings. You grow patient, and kind, and strong, and gentle, and protective, and fierce, and loving- you grow these extensions of yourself you always knew you could and you feel like you are finally becoming to the world what you always knew you were meant to be. You grow wings. And then your first year comes and you’re hired and you have this name beside a door and a nametag and suddenly people largely know you only by your last name and the feeling is striking. It’s like you are finally being able to fly and you know you have these wings and you know the reason you have them is to eventually fly. And so you go to step out and you have these wings that you have been so steadily growing and you suddenly realize you don’t actually know exactly how to fly. And though as cheesy an analogy as that is- the honest truth is that being in this place is the most frustrating and humbling and exhausting thing I have ever had to do.
Of course I had some bad days in my undergrad student teaching, but I just knew that I would never cry as a first year teacher and that all my problems would be solved when I could just get my own classroom and I have been holding out ever since until then. Well, here’s the thing I finally have my first classroom and on Friday I found myself crying in another teacher’s room while my kid’s were at P.E.- so that theory was obviously flawed.
Things you will need to know that I am currently telling myself.
Your first year teaching you are making the leap from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. Where I used to feel like I knew it all I am so quickly learning that I don’t. Where as I used to think I was too good for Pinterest ideas and Teachers Pay Teachers, after staying up past 12:00 all last week, I now know that I am not.
You are going to cry. It happens to literally the best of us.
I mentioned this before but I will say it again to you stubborn ones out there who are so much like me- you are not the best teacher. You are, however, the best teacher for your kids. Don’t teach to make yourself the best, teach to make them the best.
Always reflect. Even though we all used to sigh and roll our eyes at the very thought of writing yet another reflection- it is the absolute best thing you could ever do for yourself in your first year. Talk out your reflections, think through your reflections, or blog to the world about your reflections but whatever you do- always strive to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.