So, remember that last post I shared in August? The one when I apologized for missing one of my weekly posts? The one when I promised that I could–I would–keep up with it all?
Ha. Let me tell you about my first year of teaching.
I’m not sure I had an accurate idea back then of how much work I was getting myself into, and to be honest, the first two months are a blur of late nights and double shots of espresso. I remember walking into my nearly-empty school building in August, searching for someone with a key to unlock my new classroom and staring at the furniture piled in the corner without any idea of how to arrange it. Eventually, I set up my room (and changed it, and changed it again). I met my teammates, finished my trainings, dived into my new curriculum and hosted my first open house.
And then I met my students. I think I’ve blocked out that first day of school, and that’s probably for the best. I remember the pressure to be perfect–to say the right things, to do the right things, to ask the right questions–but having no idea what the right thing actually means. No one was pressuring me to be perfect, of course–everyone on my team has given me advice and shown me patience and I cannot thank them enough–but there was no scenario in which I was not going to do my job well and prepare my students for third grade. That pressure hasn’t ceased, but I am learning to be a little more patient with myself each day.
But back to my students. The strange thing is, I don’t think I connected with my students immediately. I remember teaching at them in the beginning, but not to them; I thought that if I memorized my lessons and paced them well, my students would understand the content and grow. But we didn’t know each other as individuals yet, and I didn’t know how each of them learns best. What’s more, building relationships with all 34 of them was not a one-size-fits-all approach, and sometimes, with some of them, every one step forward was followed by two steps back.
There was an afternoon in October, though, when it all changed. I mean, October was tough. It’s as if we had a grace period in September–it didn’t really feel like a grace period to me at the time–but it all ended at once. Our meetings increased, I had my first round of observations, I had to organize and run phonics intervention groups and my room was a revolving door of parent-teacher conferences. But that one afternoon, after I had dropped all of my students off at their bus slots and started walking back to my room, I realized that I really would miss them over the weekend. That when I hugged them and yelled, “Love you, mean it!” as they ran off, I actually meant it.
October turned into November and December and January. We celebrated another teacher’s wedding by competing to make the best toilet paper wedding dress; we destroyed the room making salt dough dinosaur fossils; we coded Lego frogs to hop across our life-cycle maps; and we danced to GoNoodle’s “Believer” track about a million times. I got to know them–I figured out their quirks and what each of them enjoys–and they did begin to understand the content and grow. And on Valentine’s Day, we sat in a circle on the floor and spent the morning telling each person in our class what we love about them (and then we ate way too much candy, of course).
And now? School is cancelled for two weeks, and I have been in meeting-after-meeting since Monday about creating a virtual classroom and ensuring that my students have access to a computer. I’m calling around-the-clock to confirm that my students and their families are safe and well and have everything they need, and I’m working to get everyone ready for school again. The stress and work and juggling act is all the same, but it’s also not the same. And I miss them.
My first year? It’s insane.
I know you haven’t heard from me here in a while, and I hate that this blog is one of the things I had to put on pause this year. Like many of you, though, I am now staying home–and since I no longer have to commute to and from school every day, I have an extra hour or two that I am not used to having. I’m hoping to start writing again; I’m hoping that this blog can help keep me sane in spite of the insane turn my first year of teaching has taken. I still can’t–I shouldn’t–promise anything, but I’ve missed this. It’s good to be back.