My First Year Teaching

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?

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Visiting my sister at college in November

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.

Finally made it to Winter Break

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).

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Celebrating Mardis Gras this year

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.

27 thoughts on “My First Year Teaching

  1. It’s nice to hear from you 🙂 I am happy to read you were just on overload from 1st year teaching ~ that’s normal, I was beginning to worry something else might have happened so thanks for touching base, I have always enjoyed your posts 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s great to hear from you, too! I missed talking to you and reading your posts, and I am glad to be back. Yes, the year just escaped me–it’s all a blur, but that was the only thing stopping me from writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice to see you here, Jamie. I admire your willingness to become a teacher and overcome the perfectionism to be really good at it. Sounds like it requires immense dedication and time commitment, so it’s understandable that the blog would suffer. I had to take a few months off and discovered how much I missed being here, too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nice to see you, too! And I remember that break you took–I was glad when you came back and started writing again, but I absolutely understand the time away now. Hopefully the time away will result in an abundance of new ideas–maybe something good can come of it.

      And thanks for saying that, too. I don’t give myself enough credit and space to learn as a teacher, and sometimes it ultimately serves to hinder my teaching. Or maybe that’s me not giving myself enough credit again. In any case, I really appreciate it! It means a lot to me that you’ve said that. I’ll keep trying!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It was so good to see a post from you this morning, Jamie! I have been wondering how you’ve been getting on with your first year of teaching. I’m glad to hear you’ve hit your stride with the children. Do you have an aide for your classroom? Thirty-four students is a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so good to hear from you again! It’s even more now, actually: I’m up to 39 students as of this week! I have an ESL teacher that pushes in for the first hour every morning, and I’m very lucky to have her.

      It’s been a crazy year, but I’m making it. Hope you’ve had a good year, too, or at least as good as it can be in the midst of this sudden uncertainty.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just remember they won’t remember the lessons, they will remember you.

    My district is off until May 1 tentatively. I really don’t expect to go back this year at the rate things are happening. We also aren’t expected to provide daily lessons. We were encouraged to post a few activities they could accomplish IF they wanted to and had access. Nothing from our time off can be graded or expected to be completed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, and as I’ve been calling and video chatting with them this week, they’ve had more to say about what they miss and how they’re feeling than the content. It seems they’re doing ok with their new work, thankfully.

      We just heard we’re off until May 15, tentatively. I don’t know what to expect, but an additional extension doesn’t seem far-fetched. Right now, everything’s optional and nothing can be graded here, either. Guess we’re in the same place–hang in there!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You brought back many memories of my first year teaching in 1970-1971. I distinctly remember being told that the school would not purchased 36 copies of West Side Story; so I bought them myself, along with many other texts. I soon learned that being an English teacher meant being broke most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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