This week signals the end of my third semester as a paid teacher. It is a very bittersweet week as I think back to where I was just one year ago, finishing my very first semester and all the anxiety, uncertainty, and guilt I felt about destroying kids’ futures for failing my class. As I walk around aimlessly, watching kids take tests (my most favorite part of my job), I have been reflecting on the differences between being a first and a second year teacher. Here is what I have gathered so far:
1. Feeling guilty about failing kids: Last year when I submitted my first semester’s grades, I spent a good two or three hours analyzing grades and trying to figure out if that kid really deserved a D, or if I felt bad and wanted to bump them up to a C (especially those kids who said they wanted to go to med school later on). One of the hardest concepts for me to grasp as a first year teacher was that some kids do not care about getting A’s and reaching their potential and learning as much as possible. That was me as a high school student; I never settled for anything less than the best and was never satisfied with anything other than 95%’s in all of my classes. But, some kids are not like that and that is perhaps just who they are.
2. Outfit choices: Last year, I would spend Saturday AND Sunday picking out, shopping, washing and ironing, accessorizing outfits for the week to come. Now, I might pull a pair of pants out of my closet and if they are wrinkled, oh well!
3. Sleeping on Sunday nights: Yup, I never slept on Sunday nights during my first year because I would lay in bed and ruminate about allllll the things I had to do when I got to school the next morning. I always called it “hangover Tuesdays”, because after Monday was over, I needed another break. This year, I have realized that I do have enough time to get everything done that I need to. And
4. Living, breathing, dreaming, doing school stuff: This year has been amazing, because I actually have time for myself. Last year, I used to: Wake up at 5 AM,
5. Definitely not trusting anything that comes out of a student’s mouth: I am an idealist, so I like to believe that people have the best of intentions. I have heard some really creative excuses in the last year: “Sorry my paper didn’t get to you. My e-mail didn’t send?”, “Sorry I didn’t turn in my paper three weeks ago when it was due. I didn’t understand the prompt”, “Sorry I don’t have my report. My house got hit by lightning last night and my power went out so the printer didn’t work”. These kids should get an A+ for creativity.
6. Caring less about personal attacks from parents: Parents are probably the worst part of the job. As a teacher, I am constantly getting e-mails, saying, “You are degrading my child”, “You are not experienced and have no idea what you are doing”, “You are unfair to my child”, etc. At first, I was very defensive to these e-mails and now, I try to take them with a grain of salt; these parents are not in my classroom, they do not necessarily know me on a personal level, so as long as I have good intentions and support from administration, I am golden.
Overall, I would say my first year of teaching was the most challenging year of my life. I look back and have NO idea how I kept my head above water. But, the good news for all of you first year teachers is that it gets significantly easier and significantly more enjoyable if you can just survive the first year.