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Week 38 of Teaching – The End of My First Year

Wow!

I can scarcely believe that I just finished up the final week of my first year of teaching…

Because I had administered my final exams last week, my students got to watch movies during what would normally have been the time in which they had tests in my class.

I chose to show Invictus to my 9th-12th graders.  The issue of apartheid went along with my classes’ final assignments.

Mall Cop was the movie I selected for my 6th graders.

Yeah, I know…not very educational…but the kids enjoyed Kevin James’s crazy antics.

I had allowed my students to bring in food.  These kids know how to plan a party!  They brought in a great selections of goodies!

When the final bell rang on Wednesday, you should have heard the kids hollering.  They were so relieved that they were finished with tests and school, in general, for a few months.  They left a mess as they departed…

However, their fun was not quite over.

They came back to school today to have a “Fun Day.”  They met at the school where parents and teachers drove them to an elementary school where they hung out on the playground (I’m assuming…I did not go) and acted like…well…like the kids they are.

They returned to the school in time to enjoy one final celebration…

Honoring the Seniors…

The school has a tradition of collecting all of the high school students and ringing the bell one final time.  Before the bell rings, though, students have a countdown…

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1…

RING

And that was the end.

I eased away from the celebration (I’m not much for parties) and made my way back to my classroom.

As I entered, I took note of the recently cleaned white board…the clean desks…the textbooks lined up on the bookshelves…

My desk was free of lesson plans, assignments, and other school-related documents.

It was time to reflect.

Ten months ago, I had stepped into my classroom for the very first time.

I was scared to death.

I was extremely nervous.

I did not know what to expect.

I only knew that I had a heart for children.

I also had a passion for learning that I wanted to instill in my students.

My students were not the only people learning new things in my classroom, nor was I the only teacher imparting lessons.

I was a student, and my students, in turn, were my teacher.

What did I learn?

  • I learned that teaching is probably one of the most exhausting professions in the world.  People often joke that teachers only have to work 8am-3pm and get summers off, but what they fail to realize is that teachers never get the job out of their minds.  We eat, breathe, and sleep lesson plans.  We invest a great amount of energy in our children’s cognitive, physical, emotional, and social well-beings.  I learned that you don’t go into teaching if you don’t want to completely submerge yourselves in the lives of the young students you will cross paths with every day.
  • I learned that my primary job is to teach…not to try to be my students’ friend.  I learned that if a student becomes angry and treats me like crap for a few days in a row, not to take it personally.  Teenagers are emotional.  Sometimes, they don’t like or want to work.  Tough.  I figured out that I am the teacher, and I’m not going to ride the emotional roller coaster of teenager-dom.  I did that once…25 years ago.  It sucked.  Besides that, students need to know that teachers are consistent, and that expectations don’t change just because someone is having a bad hair day and needs to announce it to the world.
  • I learned not to be too trusting.  I got burned this year.  Badly.  It grieved me much to find out that there were people who acted one way to my face and talked about me behind my back.  One thing I’ve always liked about myself is that I’m trusting of people’s intentions and take what they say to me at face value.  As a result, I have learned that I need to keep myself just a bit detached in the name of self-preservation.
  • I learned that teachable moments happen when you least expect them.  It is often during these unplanned moments when lessons become the most relevant.  Good teachers recognize these opportunities and expound on them…treasuring them later in their hearts.
  • I learned that eating three bowls of split-pea soup the night before going in to teach a class is not a wise decision.  Every student teacher should have this adage memorized.
  • I learned that the best-laid plans often come to naught, and it’s okay to scrap them and go with Plan B.  Admitting that you made a mistake and recognizing that a lesson plan isn’t the best fit with your students or the topic is not a sign of weakness but a sign of professionalism and maturity.
  • I learned that challenging students are not placed in our paths to frustrate us.  God places us with these children to help us grow in this profession.  Good teachers look for opportunities like this rather than ways out of teaching those kids.  Good teachers dig their heels in and refuse to give up on these kids, no matter if they are being cussed at in class or bad-mouthed in the hallways.  Good teachers do everything they can to reach the unreachable.
  • I learned that every female teacher needs a few pairs of “sassy” shoes…especially pink sparkly sassy shoes.  Believe it or not, teachers can make connections with their students through the shoes they wear.  This is a lesson that EPI classes fail to impart on up-and-coming new teachers.
  • I learned that one of the biggest keys to being an effective teacher is being prepared.  I did nothing if not be prepared this year.  Rarely, did I walk into a classroom without a formal plan of what I was doing that day, and I could tell that my students appreciated this greatly.  Students need structure.  They thrive on it.  They need to know that the teacher knows what he or she is doing, and that there’s a method to the madness.
  • I learned that another big key to being an effective teacher is strict classroom management.  In one of my classes, things got out of hand.  I allowed this to happen by not adhering to my discipline plan during the last term of the year, and it showed in my students’ attitudes and the way they treated me.  I learned that if students start slipping, even at the end of the year, it’s okay and, actually, vital that we go back to Square 1.
  • I learned that a lot of people offer “advice” without truly understanding what it’s like to be in a classroom with students all day.  It amazed me to listen to parents tell me to “overlook” behavior or that this or that child would never do such-and-such.  I learned that good teachers take the advice with a grain of salt and proceed with what they’re doing, after personal reflection confirms that such procedures are, in fact, sound.  Good teachers adhere to the sound methodologies taught during their education classes.  We don’t learn them for nothing!
  • I learned that instruction must be tailored to the individual needs of every student present in my classroom.  This was a difficult lesson to learn, and I fear that some students lost out because I did not learn it early enough.  Good teachers recognize that one-size-fits-all does not work and purposely sets out to reach each student at his or her own academic level.
  • I learned that teachers cry…a lot…especially the first year.  I know this because I did this.  Part of the reason was that I was completely overwhelmed with five lesson preps.  That is an inordinate amount of work for even the most experienced of teachers.  For a newbie, it is excruciatingly difficult.  Many of my tears flowed in frustration with myself and my inability to reach a couple of my students.  I am a perfectionist.  Anything less than that makes me feel inadequate.  Teaching is hard, and crying is a perfectly acceptable release from the stress.

There are so many more lessons that I learned…twenty posts could scarcely contain them all.

The most important thing I learned through my first year of teaching is that I love what I’m doing.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is what God had in store for me.  Everything that I’ve done up to this point has prepared me for this new chapter of my life.  Ultimately, my life’s purpose, though, is not teaching.  It is about glorifying God through my service, which I completely dedicate to Him.  Though I may not always be allowed to talk about Jesus, I can share His love through my interactions with the students, staff, and parents I come into contact with each day.

My first year of teaching will always stand out as one of challenges, ups and downs, sadness, and joy.  I will never forget the students who crossed my path this year.  I am grateful that God gave me this opportunity, and I look forward to serving Him in this profession for as long as He will allow me.

5 Responses

  1. Congratulations! Now you are truly a teacher.

    You have a great list of lessons. Come back and visit them every year.

    Now relax and concentrate on finishing those certification classes. You are nearly finished.

  2. So excited for you…..Congratulations!:D I have enjoyed following your posts through most of your first year of teaching. I received my student teaching assignment yesterday and I can hardly contain my excitement. I hope you have a great summer – relax and enjoy!

  3. Congratulations on completeing your first year! You will view your classroom differently when you enter again in the fall. Hope you have a wonderful summer!

  4. I cant believe your first year is done! And all the things you learned… so much of that can so transcend into real life too, cant it 🙂

    I’m so excited for you to enjoy your summer break & get geared up to touch even more kid’s lives!!!!

    Congrats TEACHER! 🙂

    (& now, I want to see Mall Cop again) 🙂

  5. Congratulations! Gee, your school year ends early. My son has about a month more before summer break! Now you can dedicate all your time to your studies…should be a whole lot easier for you 🙂

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