Four Years: The amount of time it took for me to graduate with a degree in education.
Six Weeks: The amount of time I waited for my first job offer.
Six Weeks: The amount of time I had to move to a new city, prepare my apartment, and psych myself up for my first year of teaching.
30 Seconds: The amount of time it took for me to realize how unprepared I was.
I’ve already written a little bit about my first year of teaching, which you can read about here, but now that I’m a few weeks removed from the varying traumas and successes of my first year, I want to debrief. I’m sure that I will write many more posts about the hilarities of being a new teacher, and I’m sure that over time my insights into this first year will deepen and mature, but I feel that some kind of closure is needed. Especially since I’m now only 28 days away from embarking on my (canyoubelieveit?) second year of teaching.
First of all, I am amazed at how faithful God has been to me as a first year teacher. Anyone who knew me during high school and college can attest to the fact that I never EVER wanted to teach middle school. I
was am convinced that it takes a special kind of person to teach middle school. And after teaching seventh grade for a year, I can tell you now that I am probably not cut out for teaching middle school for my entire life. But it’s kind of funny how when you tell God you will never EVER do something, He seems to put you in a position to do that very thing. Which is, obviously, how I ended up in seventh grade again.
As the year went on and I learned more and more, I saw that God had put me back in the seventh grade for “such a time as this,” to humble me and make me depend on Him and on others around me. I had to learn how to teach skills, not just concepts. The students I taught during my internship were seniors in high school; they knew how to form a sentence. My students this year had to be taught what a noun is THREE TIMES. And let’s be real: a few of them still don’t know. No matter how many college English classes you take or how many education courses you ace, it’s really difficult to explain adverbs to someone who really isn’t listening to 80% of what you say. I had to learn patience. I had to learn how to be loud and obnoxious and actually yell to get my students’ attention. I had to learn not to be self-conscious. I had to get over my own middle school short-comings. I had to deal with mean girls and rude kids all over again. Some days it sucked. Other days it was incredibly awesome.
Secondly, I have been inspired by the teachers who work around me–especially the ones who are obviously and wonderfully called to be a middle school teacher. They can teach skills to students at any level, they can be patient and funny and strict disciplinarians. So many of the teachers I work with gave me such helpful advice that when I started to write thank you notes I realized that there would be too many to write!
Everyone will tell you that your first year of teaching is awful. First year teachers are expected to be experts on their first day at work. They are expected to walk into the classroom with an excellent understanding of school policies and procedures, curriculum requirements, state and national standards, classroom management skills, and content knowledge. We are expected to be able to give directions around campus even if we just started exploring it ourselves. We are expected to be able to navigate through training and professional development for programs about which we know nothing. We must implement differentiated instruction and IEP accommodations even though most of us have only had one college course on Special Education Law. First year teachers are held to higher standards because they are supposed to bring “fresh ideas” and “new experiences” to a school, when really we’re just trying not to cry at the drop of a hat. New teachers need to be able to deal with parent conferences, and phone calls, and emails at all hours of the day and even on weekends. We are grading papers and turning in lesson plans and creating worksheets and trying to juggle a personal life on top of all that.
I realize that the above paragraph might sound vaguely like an “angry teacher rant,” but it wasn’t meant to. Suffice it to say, first year teachers are faced with a Herculean task. I’ve never been more relieved than I was when I drove home from work on our last day of post-planning. The first year is survivable. You might earn a few gray hairs or lose just a few of your marbles, but it is survivable!
I’m very excited to start my second year with more preparation, with a definite list of things that do and don’t work in the 7th grade.
I’m sure as I mull over the last year there will be much, much more to discuss, but for now I’ll leave you with this little verse that has meant a lot to me this year:
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
Surely the Lord was in my job search, in my first difficult year, and in all the personal struggles and victories I faced. Surely He is in this place, and I did not know it.