My first year of teaching is almost over.
Wait, what? Let’s read that again: My first year of teaching is almost over.
For the past four years I’ve heard nothing but warnings about that dreaded first year–the year when you realize that nothing can prepare you for the Herculean task of teaching. Well I’m here to tell you, unfortunately, they were right. Nothing can prepare you. No classes, no books, no internship, no amount of advice from well-meaning friends and mentors. Nothing.
The fact of the matter is this: on that first day you will step into the classroom and you will be alone, facing twenty five to thirty five young, impressionable minds. Scrubbed up and shining, they will walk in and sit down and you will be filled with terror and grand hopes for their educational well-being.
And then one of them will throw gum across the room.
And you will think It’s okay, I’m prepared for this. I can handle this with grace and poise. I will be their Fraulein Maria. I have confidence in sunshine. I have confidence in rain.
And then one of them will laugh at you as you introduce yourself and you will hear yourself falter. You might even lose your train of thought, with sixty eyes staring at you. You will remind yourself that they are just as scared as you, but that you will set the rules and you will be in charge.
Maybe you’ll do it right from the ground up. Probably not. It’s not cynicism or criticism or disillusionment speaking, it’s just honesty. It’s really hard to come into your new classroom and walk out with your ideals intact. It’s really difficult to discipline children you hardly know. It’s really difficult not to cry when they say mean things to you.
It’s really difficult not to question your career choice.
I know, I’ve been there. I’m still there.
As I come to the downhill side of my first year, I realize that I haven’t done a very good job of chronicling it. So many things happen on a daily basis that it’s easy to forget each little success and even easier to remember each large failure. All of those failures will start to add up and weigh you down. You might even find that a lot of people will tell you your first year is a wash or a waste because you have no clue what you’re doing.
Well, future teacher, that’s a lie. Your first year is never a waste. You will make mistakes and falter. You might even fall out of your chair and land on your face in front of a bunch of middle-schoolers. I did. You might yell a lot more than you want and complain a lot more than you should, but it’s not for nothing.
Don’t discount your first year because you were scared or imperfect. Remember, treasure, the day when a student brings you a wilting dandelion or tells you that you are “lovely” or finally sits for one class period without being annoying or immature.
Your idealism might suffer a few hard falls, you might realize that you’re not as smart as you once thought. You might even figure out that teaching isn’t for you, but I guarantee you that your first year will be the one that changes you for the rest of your career.
More to come.