As I begin to prepare for the upcoming school year, I cannot help but reflect on the previous year. Last school year was my very first year of teaching. I am still a new teacher. I do not claim to know everything and I’m telling you, I never will. I thought back to a conversation I had with a few students whom are majoring in Early Childhood Education. One in particular voiced her concerns that maybe she isn’t smart enough or too much of a push over to be a good teacher. She shared many what-ifs and scenarios that ended in students not learning what they needed to while under her direction. It really got me thinking. Having recently graduated myself, I completely understood her concerns. Heck, I still have them most days. But more than anything, I remembered how lost, confused, and worried I felt my senior year of college. That jump from college life to adult(ish) life (where you’re suddenly responsible for over 20 kids) was really intimidating. When people (well-meaning or otherwise) found out I was in college to teach elementary school, I received one of two responses: Excitement towards my decision and reassurance that I would be amazing at teaching or weird looks, being told I’m crazy for doing it, and being told I won’t make enough money to get by. I know that these responses are typical for soon-to-be teachers across the country. As if we don’t already know, we are constantly bombarded with comments of how others wouldn’t teach today, it’s not how it used to be, the pay sucks, etc. Lucky for these neigh-sayers (and their children), this is not why we teach.
At some point at least once a week, I find myself wondering if I’ve taught my scholars everything they needed this week. I worry that they’ll get to third grade and their teacher will say, “Wow, she didn’t teach you anything, did she?” I worry that I’ll completely mess them up for the rest of their lives. Giving my kids benchmark tests last year took a ridiculous amount of time and I felt like I would just see in numbers that I wasn’t doing as well as I should be. On top of that worry, you don’t really learn how to give a benchmark test in school. Differentiation? Sure! Writing APA? Absolutely! Giving a benchmark test? Nope. When I saw their scores, they had improved from the beginning of the year. I, a first-year teacher, taught 20-something kids something. But then I got to thinking… What if I hadn’t? What if they had not learned a single thing? Even if I hadn’t taught them anything… They grew in ways that cannot be measured. A student that cried every morning and arrive late daily ended the year arriving on time each day. A student that I was constantly told at the beginning of the year would be impossible to handle and would never listen to me because I’m “too nice,” spent half of the last day crying because he did not want to leave.
So this is what I have to say to any first year or new(ish) teachers, college kids about to be teachers, or even just teachers who need reminding:
Teaching is hard. You’ll question yourself some days and wonder why you even chose this profession. There is a quote that I see ALL THE TIME, but I absolutely adore it.
“The best part of teaching is that it matters. The hardest part of teaching is that it matters everyday.” – Todd Whitaker
But you know what? I cannot imagine doing anything else. My father had a major heart attack last school year. I missed one day of school for it, which happens to be one of the two I missed last year. The next day, upon returning, I sat down on the floor and was group-hugged by 21 children because they said “You don’t look as happy as always and hugs fix everything.”
Teaching is hard. I won’t sugar coat it. But it’s the most magical, rewarding, fulfilling thing. If it’s what you love, you won’t be miserable. You’ll just be really tired. But I think that’s how I know that I’m doing something right… that at the end of the day, I’m exhausted because I put everything I had into teaching my scholars.