I am almost 2/3 of the way through my first year as a classroom teacher. As I look back on where I was at in the beginning and where I am now, I understand why everyone says that the first year you teach is the hardest. This year has been anything but easy.
While I am still learning each day, I can honestly say that next year will be so much easier, even if I am with a different grade or teaching a different subject. Not to discourage anyone who wants to get a master’s in education, but I feel like my degree did not exactly make this first year easier. The student teaching process in the beginning of the year was not particularly helpful and just meant I had some extra work to do each week.
I need to document some lessons learned and why not do it today?
The most important thing I have learned is that I must be consistent and follow through with what I say I am going to do with the kids. If I say they will miss a recess if they keep acting like clowns, then I need to follow through, even if it means punishing kids who really didn’t do anything to cause disruption. I have a good handful of kids in my class this year who I have had to redirect less than five times. It sucks that they miss out on things because they are surrounded by future clowns and beggars, but it’s the nature of the beast. I’m learning that I can reward those kids in other ways, though, and still be consistent in my message.
By establishing good routines, I have saved myself a lot of time that I am using now to get them caught up from basically being a year or more behind. I spent a lot of time getting them used to learning how to do school again in the first couple of months and I can see that it is paying off. I will be much better prepared in July and August when the next school year is getting going. People need routines and my class has gotten pretty darn good at them.
The evil imp on my shoulder just sits back and cackles when I see other teachers laying into their students who can’t form a good line or who are loud as fuck as they walk through the halls. My kids are quiet and respectful and move through the campus like a swan on a beautiful lake in comparison, but it has taken a metric shit ton of work get them there. It’s also constant work. I have to stay on them every day, but that’s okay.
A painful lesson I have learned is that second graders are fucking stupid. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but in the way that Denzel Washington’s character in the wonderful movie, Philadelphia, would say, “Explain this to me like I’m a two-year-old (or was it four-year-old?).” I am keenly aware now that I suck at giving directions. I think they should just know what to do because it is sofa king obvious, but their brains are not working in the same way as my brain, and I need to dumb it the fuck down.
I’m getting better at this, but I have a long way to go. Over the past few months, I’ve learned a few teacher tricks from my colleagues and have been doing a much better job of having my students explain the expectations before each assignment. This helps me see where the holes were in my directions and helps with gaining some understanding among the students, too. They listen to each other a bit more closely than they will listen to me.
I’ve been fortunate that I don’t have any students in my class right now that will openly challenge my authority. I did have one at the beginning of the year and I still wonder why she was so angry. I have a new student I am inheriting from another teacher, though, and he will be a handful. I am much better equipped to handle him now than I was six months ago but he’s going to do his best to disrupt my class. I’m interested to see which one of my little cherubs he will bring to the dark side.
Someone will fall for his schtick. I am ready to crush him (with love, of course) and get him in line. If anything, this will just be another way to prove to my team that I am superior to them. Does my false bravado jump off the screen? I hope so. While I am feeling competitive and want to get this kid in line (and quickly), I do want to get to know him and figure out how to reach him. This another thing that has slowly revealed itself to me during this year: children are not the same.
Shocking, right? They all have different motivations, interests, and baggage. It’s been a trip figuring out how to get them to calm down or listen or work or step outside of their comfort zone. Some of my kids are so afraid to fail. I wonder where that has come from, especially after meeting their parents. I have a few who have seemingly loving and supportive parents who are petrified of putting themselves out there and possibly looking bad.
I have another young fella who is terribly smart but lazy as the day is long. If something is presented that he doesn’t like, he shuts down and starts saying, “I can’t do this” or “I don’t understand.” This is so odd to me, but not really, I suppose when I consider that school bored the fuck out of me most of the time. I thought the assignments were bullshit and didn’t do my work a lot of the time even though I could do it easily. Effort must come from within, and I have to figure out how to make him want to work.
He loves pizza. I think I’ll give him a special project about starting his own pizza place.
See you tomorrow.