If only I’d known…

Attention New Teachers:

I remember being a new teacher, 8 years ago?!?! In fact, there are still days when the newness is there, especially as I transitioned to my current position last year. It kind of was like starting over again. Luckily, I had a super great mentor who helped me both during student teaching and my first year (and still does, though we’re not close geographically anymore). She has taught me tons, and without her this list may be a lot longer! There are definitely things you don’t learn in college. I don’t know if it’s necessarily that no one tries to teach these things…some things you just have to learn on the job and aren’t ready to listen to until you experience it.

 

I wish someone had told me…

 

  • I would have days where I seriously doubted my profession (and ability to teach). There were times that hit me like a brick (and days that it still creeps up on me). I really hadn’t suffered much failure up through college. Perhaps that means I didn’t take enough risks, or didn’t step out of my comfort zone. I generally stuck with things I was good at. When I had a bad day where it was clear students were not learning from me, it cut deep. It still does. There were tears, there were frustrations, and there were naps (I enjoy sleeping things off…it usually makes me feel better). Oh, and there was ice cream because ice cream has a way of making the world right again! I’m not going to lie, there are still times that I need those tears, the sleep, or the ice cream. Fortunately, those days are fewer and farther between. When this happens, sometimes I just question my placement and start looking at job banks to see what else is out there! In the end, though, I know that I am doing what I was created to do. Maybe it’s not my forever purpose, but it is my purpose right now.

 

  • It’s okay to take things personally, just don’t let it own you. Now, some of you may be shaking your head and saying NEVER to take what students say or do to heart. I.just.can’t.do.that. It is against every fiber of my being. And, I don’t think that’s ALWAYS a bad thing. There are definitely times I have had to let comments slide off of my back…names I’ve been called, things students have said when they’re having a rough day (and it’s obvious I’m not the real issue). But, there is also worth in their feedback, however positive or negative it may be. We’re there for the students. It’s important to be able to reach them to teach them. If they are having a problem with something, I need to hear that, take it to heart and try a new strategy. Sometimes that’s just a matter of taking what I did and putting it in a new package.

 

  • I wouldn’t always be stuck in the low level math classes. I don’t know about the rest of you all…but around here it seems like often times new teachers get the pleasure of teaching the lower level classes. That was the case with me. I had 3 sections of Algebra I and 2 sections of “Applied Math I” my first year. Algebra I has stuck with me pretty much my entire teaching career (so you’d think I’d be good at it, right? I still haven’t determined that 🙂 ).  Those Applied Math classes really tested me my first year. I don’t know if admins do it to put you through trial by fire, or if as you climb the seniority ladder most places give you more preference (not the case, necessarily at my other two schools), but wow…did it ever challenge me and test me. I now know that it isn’t the case everywhere that you get the higher level classes as you move up in seniority. In fact, I know of people who have walked into upper level classes in their first and second years of teaching. For some reason, though, I kind of love that group of students. They are TOUGH to teach. They generally HATE math. But I think that’s a bit of my niche…to work with those students. They have a soft spot in my heart, as much as I hate to admit it sometimes.

 

  • Keep a warm fuzzy file. Well, someone did tell me to do that…my wonderful mentor mentioned above made me one. I still have it. What is a warm fuzzy file? All of those sweet things students do for you. Pictures they’ve colored me, signs they’ve made me, notes they’ve left me, etc. It sits in my drawer and when I’m having a rough day, I get it out and look through it. There are still things from my first year of teaching that make me cheese! The file isn’t huge, but there’s probably at least one thing per year that is in there and allows me to reflect on why it’s all worth it in the end.

 

  • It’s okay (and probably good) to borrow and steal. I don’t think it’s been until the last few years that I have become pretty good at hunting out other people’s ideas and modifying them to fit my classroom. It’s not always about being creative, but about using resources that are out there. I hope to become a better contributor to the open sharing of creative lessons as I continue on this blog journey. But so far, I have been a much better treasure hunter than creator. I have found so much worth in going outside of my textbook. When I started teaching, I was definitely driven by the book and rarely went outside of it. That has changed, and this year, my students have yet to receive a textbook from me (we’re in our second full week now), and may not (shhh…don’t tell…not sure if that’s frowned upon?).

 

So, new teachers, good luck! While the first year can be trying…it’s all worth it in the end! Stick it out; find someone you can talk to/vent with; and stay focused on why you are doing this crazy job in the first place. You will see rewards for it…maybe small and infrequent…but keep your eyes open, they’re there!

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