Extra glue sticks and pencils – check. Border for the bulletin boards inside the classroom and in the hallway – check. Student names on desks – check. I went through the beginning of the school year routine year after year, and I never seemed to get tired of it. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never been a teacher, but the beginning of a new school year is like a new beginning for everyone. It was always a time for me to look back at the previous year and see what I could do to be a better teacher for my students.
I did my student teaching in the fall and graduated in December. I was really nervous about taking over someone else’s class in the middle of the year, so I just subbed during the spring. I went on many interviews, but I wasn’t actually hired until two weeks after school started in August. Mr. Ledger at Mission Bend Elementary in FBISD wanted me to teach for him, but there were no openings before school started. Then, I remember getting a phone call from him telling me that they had too many fourth graders and would need a new teacher. Talk about excited! But I was also incredibly nervous. Since this was 27 years ago, I don’t remember a lot, but what I do remember is that my classroom was in a multi-purpose room. That’s the kind of room that might be a science lab one year and a storage room the next. For reasons that I can’t exactly remember, my ‘classroom’ was connected to a hallway that led to other classrooms. That meant that the students in those classrooms had to walk through the back of my room every time they left to go to lunch, recess, library, etc. It was crazy, but within a couple of weeks I was used to it and enjoying my first year as a teacher.
As a teacher, you’ll face many challenges and have to find ways to overcome them. During my second year of teaching at Brazos Bend, we had seven second grade classes but only six classrooms. I was chosen as the teacher who would have to teach her second grade class in the Kindergarten pod! It wasn’t easy to set up my classroom that year because Kindergarten classrooms are designed differently than classrooms for older students. It took a while, but I finally got my furniture arranged and bulletin boards put up. It was an interesting year, but a few memories stand out from the others. Because this was a Kindergarten classroom, we shared a restroom and walk through area with the classroom next to us. We could hear just about everything that went on in our neighboring classroom. Those Kindergartners are loud! This was at a time when FBISD still had half day Kindergarten, so twice a day we’d hear the songs that they would sing during calendar time. By the end of the year, we were completely and utterly tired of hearing the days of the week song that was sung to the tune of the Adams Family theme song! I also remember that I had a student named Brandon in my class that year. There was also a Brandon in the afternoon Kindergarten class next door. That teacher was a little bit on the loud side, so every time her Brandon got in trouble and she would say his name while reprimanding him, my Brandon’s ears would perk up and he’d get a little nervous thinking that he was the one that was in trouble. After a while, he got used to hearing his name called by the other teacher and just ignored it.
As a teacher, you’ll be blown away by how much your students will learn, especially at the elementary level where their brains are like little sponges. Second graders (the grade level I’m most familiar with) learn the continents of the world, the steps in the water cycle, plane shape figures from three sided triangles to 12 sided dodecagons, parts of speech like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, the meaning of multiplication and division, how to infer and draw conclusions while reading, and so much more! On the other hand, they remember all kinds of inconsequential things like why Johnny got in trouble and had to move his clip during art class on the third Thursday in February and how many times Mary has been tardy this week!
As a teacher, you’ll never tire of hearing the parents of your students tell you how much their child has learned in your class and how appreciative they are of your efforts. When I was teaching, I usually shared stories from the Houston Chronicle with my students at least once a week. I recently ran into a parent whose child was in my class about 14 years ago. One of the first things she mentioned was that her child reads the newspaper every day and she credits me with starting her on that habit. It’s really rewarding when you hear from a former student who just graduated from college that you were his favorite teacher!
One thing that sets teaching apart from most other careers is that you kind of get a ‘do over’ from year to year. Too many behavior problems in your class this year? Don’t worry, you’ll get a new class next year with hopefully fewer behavior problems. Don’t feel like you did the best job of teaching those new math TEKS (objectives)? Don’t worry, you’ll get another chance next year. Didn’t meet the goal you set for T-TESS? Don’t worry, you’ll set a new goal for next year.
So, if you’re a new teacher ready to start your first year, keep some things in mind. First, the perfect teacher does not exist. No matter how many years you teach, there is so much more for you to learn and improvements to be made. Always think of yourself as a lifelong learner. Second, be a team player. Whatever you teach, you will be a part of a team that will depend on you to do your part and contribute to help the team be the best it can be. Always share your ideas even if you don’t think the others will be interested. Lastly, know that you may be the most important and influential person in a child’s life. Watch what you say and how you say it. Too many children hear only the negative comments that are spoken about them by others. Your job is to build your students up and let them know that they can be successful.
Teaching has changed immensely over the past 27 years. Some of the changes have been welcomed by teachers but others have been met with quite a bit of resistance. Just keep in mind that change can be good and you have to give new ideas a chance. And, if summer wasn’t your favorite season before you started teaching, it probably will be now! Have a great year!
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