Christine Mortensen, 7th Grade English Arts Teacher at Helen A. Fort Middle School, Pemberton NJ.
I just finished my first year teaching. My first week of school was a blur. I don’t even remember it. I was so excited to introduce myself to all the students, and I was just trying really hard to remember all of their names, and one thing about each student, so I could connect with them during the year. I handed out an index card to each of them, and they had to write their name, any nicknames, favorite activities, anything special they wanted me to know about them, and then I had them write down, ‘I wish my teacher knew,’ which was separate from the index cards. I got some really good feedback from that. They were given the choice to be anonymous or not, and they would write things like, ‘I enjoy learning, but I am really shy,’ and another one wrote that he liked to interact, but was self-conscious because he stutters a bit, things like that. From those cards, I realized I needed to be patient. A lot of them wanted to learn, but I had to let them warm up.
I had one student who hated language arts. She did not want to come into the classroom at all. I always greeted all of my students at the door, and when she would come in, she would say, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ And I would always tell her, ‘It will be fun!’ And little by little, I would get her to do some work. I would invite her to be my helper, or I would let her know I would grade her orally, as long as she gave me something. She eventually became my classroom assistant, and she loved it. She would be coming into class skipping, and ask me what we would be learning each day. One day we were doing a project, and she was doing her work, enjoying it, and we had a reading specialist come in, who was basically my supervisor, to watch me teach. After class she pulled me aside, and said, ‘How did you get her to work?’ Then she hugged me and said, ‘I have never seen her work so diligently as she was today.’ That was a really special moment for me.
After one very exciting weekend for me, when I got to school, I went into a homeroom where a lot of my students go. I just waved my hand, and they all came running towards me, like, ‘What?? You got engaged??’ They thought it was a joke at first. But when they realized I was serious, they were so excited. I was so happy to share that moment of my life with them.
I loved my first year, and I know that teaching middle school students is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I have found my niche and am very happy.
Check out Christine’s story when she was interviewed BEFORE she started teaching by clicking here.