All throughout my college career I got the weird looks, the pity, the “Ohh…why?”s, so I really didn’t get into the teaching field wearing rose colored glasses. I would hear all the complaints and horror stories from the teachers I was shadowing, and I went through the second guessing of my life choices and crying in the bathtub for a week straight. I knew teaching was hard, it was not for the weak, and it would consume most of my life. I feel like if you can accept this from the beginning you’re already at a good start. I also knew I wanted to make a real difference in the world, I get bored easily, and kids are just the funniest (I mean seriously, you couldn’t pay for this level of comedy). Despite all the odds, I keep on with my degree and graduated with a Bachelors in Elementary Education.
So, getting a job at a school that you really love, is REALLY important. I don’t think I can stress that enough. If you don’t want to work somewhere, don’t. I knew I wanted to be passionate about where I was teaching and I was lucky enough to find a school that almost seemed too good to be true. I mean we do yoga, go surfing, garden, sing songs, watercolor, but most importantly, we teach our children how to be good people. Even on my most stressful days of school, I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be part of something where I just feel at home. Because my first teaching job is at a school that is basically teacher heaven, I know my experience will probably be a lot different than most, but I think it’s important to share so people who are starting their careers in the teaching profession know, it’s not all bad.
Even if you are a natural born, organized, amazing teacher, the first year of teaching is going to come with its challenges. Depending on what type of school you are working at, the challenges will vary. For me, my greatest challenge is being uncertain of myself. I went to school for 4 years, had many different types of internships, read a bunch of books, and I still don’t know exactly what to do in certain situations. Of course I know of what many different professionals call the “best practices.” But there seems to be so many different opinions on how to react to a behavior, and all I’m trying to do is not scar my kids for life. They say it’s best to give defiant kids options, it’s also best to be firm. It’s best to be loving and give them time, but also best to let them know what is expected of them and count down if they don’t do something right away. I know this kid is going to have a meltdown if I don’t let him get up and get a yellow crayon, but I told everyone they weren’t allowed to get up. Is it worth the drama just to enforce my rule, or do I pick and choose my battles? These are the things I struggle with everyday. Everyone around me tells me I’m doing fine, but no one is with me in my classroom for most of the day. Am I really doing fine? Am I really exhibiting effective classroom management skills? Am I really benefiting my students’ school experience? I know there is no way in avoiding this challenge, because no one goes into teaching being an expert. However, it’s still something that keeps me up a lot of nights.
Another challenge that I am facing is adjusting to the lack of “me time.” Before school started, I would get up at 10:00 AM, workout for however long I wanted, go tan by the pool, get errands done, and then do whatever I wanted until it was time to work my serving job at 5:00 PM. I would work for 4 hours and then go out with my friends. Now I get up at 5:30 AM, get ready for the day, work at school until about 4:30 PM, then come home, eat, workout for like 30 minutes, and then get ready to go to bed at 8:30 PM. This was definitely a huge change of lifestyle for me. I was already expecting this change, but knowing about it still did not make it easy to adjust. The first couple weeks of the school year are going to be like “WHAT THE HECK,” but soon you’ll adjust and it will just feel normal. It’s also important to plan your weekends out. If you can, make sure you have a day were you do something fun. Go out to eat, go to the beach, get a pedicure with your friend. Also have one day, when you just chill the heck out. Watch a full season of Catfish, don’t get out of your pj’s all day, only eat food on the couch, whatever you need to do to feel like there is not a care in the world. Whenever I have weekends like this, I feel the best come Monday. Most importantly, I think it’s important to remind yourself that this is your career. This is what you have been working towards for literally, your whole life. It is not suppose to be the same lifestyle as your friends who aren’t in their careers. You are going to look on social media and see all these people who just live everyday for themselves, but you know that that is not the key to happiness. You have a career were everyday, you are helping change the world, and that kind of lifestyle isn’t for the normal person.
The Good Stuff
I always thought it was a stereotype that teachers get apples, but I have gotten to many to count. At this rate, I think I will never have to buy an apple again, and I mean that alone is worth it. But really, I think my favorite part so far is all the love I receive from my kids, their parents, and my staff. When my kids tell me they love me, or when their parents tell how happy they are that I am their kid’s teacher, it really makes me feel like I am making a difference. I have had a lot of parents contact and tell me that their child really loves school for the first time, and that is probably the best thing anyone can ever hear. Before starting the school year, I was so nervous about how my kids parents would respond to me considering it is my first year teaching and I look like I’m 12. I have found that all parents really want is someone that will love and take care of their child. Also, I’m pretty sure none of my parents know I’m a first year teacher so that makes me feel like I’m not so helpless.
All of my co-workers know what it’s like to be a first year teacher so they are always happy to offer me support or some advice. I also have a great mentor who helped me set up my room, plan every week, and answers the millions of questions I bug her with everyday. I know that a lot of people might not get this kind of love at their school, but that’s why it’s important to be picky when it comes to picking a school you want to work at.
One of my favorite parts of teaching is just the brilliantly funny things my kids say or do throughout the day. From finding random teeth in pockets, to trying to secretly look for lice, the day is always interesting. The day doesn’t seem to lag, if anything I always feel like I don’t have enough time. I can honestly say I am never bored, yes I am thoroughly exhausted at the end of the day with dirty feet and soaking in sweat, but I love it.
Teaching is definitely not for everyone, really it’s not for most. It is definitely something that you must dedicate your whole life and soul to, which is terrifying. But if you love it, you love it, and even when you’re stressed and tired, you’ll still be happy with your life. Being a first year teacher can seem almost too scary to imagine, but just wing it and try your best and you’ll be fine. I mean I hope so, it’s still only week 4 for me. Stay tuned.