Those are the first two words that come to mind when I think about my first year as a struggling teacher. After those two words though, I remember how much a single classroom with 19 adoring kids changed my life forever.
It was an awesome day, Monday, January 3rd, 2012 to be exact. It was my first day as a long term sub position that I would eventually turn into a permanent teaching position. The walk into the school was a whirlwind of emotions. I had only graduated a few weeks earlier and had only been to this school one time for the interview. I had read books on how to teach, went to college for this. How hard could it be? Nonetheless, I was scared, nervous, and overall so excited to have a class to finally call mine. I brought a notebook and pen with me not really sure of what to except.
I was greeted with another teacher and was told that I would be the students fourth teacher of the year. I also found out in the days to come that I was the inclusion classroom. I had students who had fetal alcohol syndrome, low I.Q.'s, Autism, were non-verbal, and one student who constantly threatened lives and could only read at a kinder level. What did I get myself into?
Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the most part. At my first grade level meeting t we got a lot of work done and the lovely ladies in my grade level let me copy their lesson plans considering I was so lost. Then, February hit. Out of nowhere I was hit with a migraine that didn't go away for days which turned into an entire month of hospital visits, I missed my first Valentine's Day party, I had MRA, CT, and MRI scans. Nothing the doctors gave me would help my through the day. What did I get myself into?
What did help though is seeing my kids and how excited they were to play a new game, learn about their favorite animals, or sort our words with our interactive whiteboard. They came in everyday with an eagerness to learn and how could I bring them down? Most days went well, and some went not so well. Tantrums, crying, screaming, and fighting. What did I get myself into?
I was stuck in the "Disillusionment Phase" where you feel that everything is falling apart and you constantly ask yourself "What did I get myself into?" so I decided on 5 simple steps that will help you get through this phase. Remember, "This too shall pass."
1. Leave at 5 o'clock (Unless it is time for report cards then you stay all night)
While I don't really enforce the 5 o'clock rule, I try to only stay as long as I really need to but never past dinner. As teachers, we are perfectionist and we want everything to be perfect. Our bulletin boards, our centers, our books, and everything else. As a first year teacher, it is impossible and that is okay. LET ME REPEAT... it is OKAY! When our kids enter our class, they are not prepared for the end of the year goals so why should we try to be prepared for the end of our career goals? There will always be work to be done as a teacher so just do what is important for the next day or two and go home. Your couch misses you.
2. Rely on Your Peers
I was always so afraid to ask the other teachers for help my first year and that didn't work out so well. I soon found out that I needed them as much as they needed me. Your peers have been through it, so don't feel bad leaning on them. If you don't lean on them then who will they lean on when they need someone? Don't worry, they will tell you if you are too reliant on them, teachers are blunt like that. ;) All jokes aside, your peers either in real life or on the internet, are there to help you. When you succeed, they succeed so don't be afraid. If you are afraid, you can always contact me, I get it, it is a scary world in that new school and the feeling of the new kid stinks sometimes.
3. Remember What the Job is About
The kids. It is all about the kids. Make 'em happy, be fair, be consistent, and don't forget to be fun. If you do that then the kids will be happy too. I always say to work hard and be nice. With that simple of a rule, everything is covered. Even when I had headaches that brought me to the verge of tears, I always made sure to smile for my kids, they need that love. Remember, you might be the only adult they really connect with everyday so make it a positive.
4. Don't Go Back to High School
Gossip is so 90's and so totally lame. Just don't do it. It will make your first year a lot easier. Plus, I'm pretty sure you should be making up cool new lesson plans instead.
5. Don't Give Up
Nothing compares to teaching. It is the greatest feeling in the world to work with a student all year long and to see them succeed. I encountered a student who never ever received one-hundred percent on any of her spelling tests. I told her she would get one-hundred percent and I promised that I would work with her until she got it. You already know that she got that one-hundred percent, and man did she deserve it. It brought her and her family to tears, and I got the greatest feeling of accomplishment. She did it and I couldn't be more proud.
No matter what happens, or what goes wrong. The kids need you and they will remember you. There is nothing in this world that I would rather do than teach. I don't get up to teach for the money, I do it for the kids. Even just a second of an "ah-ha" moment is enough for me to push through the school year. You will feel it to, and you will love teaching if you don't give up. I promise.
There you have it. I know it is rough, but you will make it through. I ended up with no headaches and was crying on the last day of school like a baby. I miss those sweet faces all the time and don't know how I would be the teacher that I am today without a little bit of struggling.
So, just what was I thinking so long ago when I decided to be a teacher? I was thinking that this has got to be the most amazing job in the world. Man was I right.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up in the Contact section above or follow me on Twitter @MsGeekyTeach
“The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown; you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote, the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.”
― Donna Quesada
Sara Boucher is a Robotics and Computer Programming Teacher in Los Lunas, NM who is developing her own set of super geeks.