Thursday, April 22, 2010

Notes From a First Year Teacher

I started this blog not because I thought people really were all that interested in my life, but instead as more of a journal and "scrapbook" for myself. My memory is not the best, and I wanted to have a detailed journal of things that are going on in our life. I wanted to be able to remember our first years of marriage, Kaia's first years, my first years as a teacher, and someday our first years of parenthood. That was the goal of this blog, so if you think this blog post is a bit boring...than at least I warned you! :) This post is more for me than it is for anyone else. I want to remember my first "year" of teaching so that I can look back in 5, 10, 15 years and read about the good and bad of my first year. I want to be able to write out all of the things that are running through my mind on a daily basis. So here it goes...

I am almost through my first year of teaching. Ok, technically it's not a full school year, but 6 months counts, right? I can't believe it. I have learned so much. More than any college professor or text book ever could have taught me. There have definitely been ups and downs, but I am thankful for the good times and the bad. Both helped me grow, and I watched my students grow right along with me. I am almost positive I have learned more than them this school year. Part of me can't wait for it to be over. To have a break from the daily grind. But part of me is sad to see my students move onto seventh grade. There are a few that have impacted me greatly, that I will truly miss.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that it seems like just yesterday I was a six grader, and today I sat in front of 28 six graders that have been put into my life for a reason. That reason is one I have always felt strongly about since I started college. Yes, I am a teacher and I need to "teach" the students in my classroom. However, I hope they have learned much more from me than prepositions, fractions, climate, and poetry (doesn't sixth grade sound like fun). It has always been my goal to teach students the important role they play in our classroom and one day society. I want them to learn to respect each other, and work out differences. I want them to learn that it is ok to struggle to understand certain concepts. It is ok to ask questions and ask for help. It is ok to get frustrated and want to give up. I want them to work at their own rate, even if it takes them 2 weeks longer than the rest of the class. These are all totally normal feelings and issues. I think this is something students struggle to understand. They want to be "normal" and keep up with their friends. They are afraid to be different because they may get made fun of. Being different is ok, in fact, it's better than "normal".

Most importantly I hope my students have learned that it is ok to mess up. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. It is what you do with those mistakes that matter. This is something I have tried to emphasize this year. I always point out when I mess up and make mistakes. I would never want my students to think I am any better than them or that I don't make mistakes. That's ridiculous. Unfortunately, I am just now really understanding the importance of this, so I might not have emphasized it enough. Do I think they fully understand it? A few of them do, but a lot don't. This is one area that I am going to strongly emphasize next year (or whenever I have my own classroom again).

These 28 pre-teens have been challenging. Oh, have they been challenging! There are many days that I got in my car and burst into tears. There were days when I felt like I had little control and that no one was learning anything from me. There were days when I wanted to quit and never teach again. I got frustrated, I snapped a few times, and I'm sure I will a few more times before May 28. I said things to students that I didn't mean and would later regret. This class is a rough group. However, part of me is very thankful that God gave me a difficult class to start out with. It has taught me to be much more patient and much more understanding. I am trying not to raise my voice so much or let little things get to me. After all, they are 12 year olds. They are going to be weird, annoying, aggrivating, and down right rude. It's to be expected and every now and then I have to remind myself that even though they are "older", they are still kids that are learning and growing all of the time.

I am known to be a more negative person. I am really trying to work on this and that starts in my classroom, with my students, and with my fellow teachers. I could go on and on about all of the things that have gone "wrong" in my classroom. I could list off all of the times I've been disrespected, lied to, or hurt. But what good is that going to do? I am trying not to dwell on the bad, but think about the good. And there is lots of good! Even on my worst day, when the students are out of control and I am constantly redirecting to maintain stability, seeing a student "get it" is so worth it. It's worth all of the crap that teachers have to deal with (in my opinion). Watching a student gain the understanding they've been looking for is so worth it.

There are several students in my class that I will never forget. Were they always the "best behaved" kids? No. Did they get under my skin? Absolutely. However, these memorable students worked their tail ends off to be good students and classroom leaders. They are my students that aren't afraid to ask questions, to seek advice, and to help me out whenever it is needed. They "get it". They don't always understand everything the first time, but they don't give up until they get it. I love watching students form their own understandings about what we are learning. I don't always have to be the "know all" teacher (clearly, I'm far from it). I want students to learn with me not from me. There are a few students that really showed me what that looked like. Something I will never forget.

This past six months has been by far the hardest sixth months of my life. They have been hard mentally and emotionally. Really getting to know myself as a teacher and get to know my students has taken a lot out of me. There are days when it seems like too much work. Like I don't have a minute of free time. There are moments when I want to run out of the classroom, go outside and scream. But it's all worth it. I am making a difference in kid's lives. I am impacting them, challenging them, and helping them. Believe me when I say that I am in no way trying to sound as though I have it all figured out. Trust me, I will never have it all figured out. I just feel like I am helping kids. Helping kids. That sums up my dream job. It doesn't pay a whole lot, and somedays it's nothing short of terrible, but I am helping kids become whatever it is they want to become. Teachers helped me get to where I am today, and I love paying it forward. Bottom line is, I love my job!

Well there you have it. Bored yet? I could literally sit here and type for hours, but I know that you are already dozing off, so I'll leave it at that. :)

Here are some pictures of my classroom. I would love to add pictures of my students, but I think that's illegal. Their names and faces will be permanently engrained in my head.

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