Category: First-Year Teaching

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Why I Didn’t Give Up

A Personal Story

One of the hardest experiences of my life was the first semester of teaching by myself from January to May of last year. 

I say “by myself” because I also taught from September to December of 2017, but my sponsor teacher was always by my side to guide and support me every step of the way. She also helped me teach a couple of classes a day and provided constructive criticism.

I arrived at my new school mid year which meant my students had several substitutes before me. They weren’t used to structure. On top of all of this, my classroom management skills were at the rookiest level ever. Before I could get to the teaching part, I needed to manage the classroom effectively.

I’d interned at a school where getting A’s was expected, so we rarely had discipline problems. At my new job, I lost control of my classes multiple times. I felt like quitting my job on an almost daily basis because I was also struggling and juggling with everything required of teaching besides classroom management.

Some students hated me, and they told me in my face. They hated me because I gave the class the structure, rules, and expectations they weren’t used to. Some students came to class with no intention of completing work. Students talked back to me and tested me with their misbehavior.

You’re probably wondering how I pushed myself through all of this.

How I Chose a Master’s Degree

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 11.19.56 AMIf I had the money I’d probably complete an MFA in creative writing or more specifically poetry. Since I have to be realistic, I chose a degree that I concluded would make me more marketable since I’m not planning to have book published  any time soon because I’m not writing one.

I chose a Master’s in Special Education with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders. It’s online, it’s provided by the same university where I got my bachelor’s degree, so it wouldn’t require me to move out of state and pay out-of-state fees, did I say it’s online? So I can keep my full-time job. Also, I have feeling that if I don’t do it now, I’ll probably never go back to university. My goal is to learn knowledge and skills that will help me be a better teacher for all of my student especially my students who are in my school’s special education program.

My Least Favorite Part About Being a Teacher

As an aspiring poet, I wanted to become alluring. As a teacher-to-be, I soon figured out that the mystery within allure does not help the teacher. As I teach, I gravitate toward speaking sentences that will help set an atmosphere of connectivity. Mystery in the education setting creates barriers and misunderstandings. My humanity is behind my mystery, and students need to be able to see that.

To get my students’ attention, I usually ask them questions that will allow them to share their experiences. I’ll ask questions like the following. Who has been bullied? Who has bullied? Who has witnessed a classmate be bullied? I want them to see that they have similarities. And if they don’t, I want them to learn from each other’s experiences about things that have been unexplained to them such as why do students bully.

First-Year Teaching Advice: The Best Piece of Advice

ConfidentI remember the worries I felt before I started my teaching internship. Would students like me? Would students be smarter than me? Would I be able to manage all the tasks required of a teacher such as turning in grades and weekly less plans on time, attend all faculty meetings, and have enough energy and patience to teach six classes that for the most are back to back. The answer to all of these questions became yes.

If I could go back in time, and give myself only one piece of advice for my first-year teaching it would be to show up with my best attitude and put in my best effort. Back then I would have probably said, What if I don’t have years of experience? What if a student rebels and refuses to follow classroom rules? What happens if I don’t turn in grades or lesson plans on time? Even though all of these scenarios happened to me, I learned from them, and I moved on.

First-Year Teaching Advice: The Importance of Reflection

Girl & DeskReflection over my first-year teaching is what allows me to step back and look at what has and hasn’t been working. There have been days when I remember that quote by Albert Einstein: The definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different outcome. I’m especially reminded of it when I reflect over my rookie use of classroom management skills and discipline strategies.

When I stepped back and realized how many of my students were having problems with each other, I incorporated a unit on bullying. It took me a while to see that my class with the most behavior problems would benefit from having all materials ready on their desks—despite having seen and helped teachers, I worked with in the past, use this strategy. It took me a while to realize that my second class of the day, which unlike most of my classes has about 20 students, needed a seating chart. It took me a while to understand that I was becoming unhappy because I took grading home with me, so I figured out ways to grade during school hours.

First-Year Teaching: A Reflection

Books & BookshelfAs the Oklahoma teacher walkout enters its fifth day, I am reflecting over my first-year teaching, and what I need to improve when school is back in session. It’s difficult to be raw and honest about my experience of my first-year teaching because as much as I want it to look flawless and inspiring both in writing and in real life, if there’s anything teaching has taught me is that it’s not perfect and it most definitely isn’t glamorous.

My greatest frustration as a teacher is the sense of overwhelm I feel. Last year in an interview my interviewer, a school principal, said that if you’re the type of person who likes to finish checking off to-do lists then teaching is not for you because you will never finish checking off all of the to-do list. As you probably already know, she is right in the sense that teachers have lots do. What I miss about my past jobs is that as soon as I clocked out, I didn’t have to worry about work anymore. There was no work to take home with me. With this teaching job there’s always something I can work on: lesson plans, emails to parents, grading, read essays, tasks from my administrators, etc. Little by little, I am learning how to not let this job take all of my energy and my time.