February is in the rearview. Six months have passed, the holidays have come and gone, and we have four months until summer. This is the long, in-between stretch – can’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you have come so far from where you’ve started. As a first year teacher, I feel it is appropriate to expose the truths, misconceptions, and realizations of the “First Year” thus far.
You will never be caught up with your work. I’ll be the first to admit I have every technological device filled with reminders, my desk calendar is overloaded, and I’ve probably cut down a forest with the amount of sticky notes I use daily. This job is meant for the tough minded and those who enjoy the pressures of school. The thought of school has always exhilarated me; I am someone who is driven by due dates and exceeding expectations. There is always something going on and it’s okay if you need to push something off until tomorrow, or Monday – here’s why.
Your mental clarity is priceless
You can drive yourself to insanity if you try to bring your work along with you everywhere you go. Live for yourself when you’re not at work: go to the gym, get your nails done, take your dog for a walk…heck, even lay down for an hour (yes, I said it!). The work will still be there when you return on Monday, and you guessed it, once you get there you’ll get a new pile all over again! Think about yourself and do not push your sanity to the side – you desperately need it to fuel your classroom.
How many of you reading follow those “Pinterest Perfect” teachers on social media who dress to the nines, have the BEST room decor, and impressive lesson ideas? First year teachers: DO NOT let this get to your head! Would it be awesome and is it possible? Sure. Is it reality for everyone? No. Eventually, if you work your way there, you’ll make it in time. Do not fret over the details. Start small with class bulletin boards, student jobs, follow the curriculum, and add in your own flair. Even support those teachers who inspire you by purchasing their merchandise on TeachersPayTeachers – it is an inexpensive and great way to change up your lessons. I promise, your students will recognize your dedication.
The true reality
In September, I was bright-eyed, thought I knew so much about my career, and was ready to tackle on anything and everything. Now, I am still as passionate and positive as ever, but I have experienced so much in five short months that have molded my perspective of the reality of my job. By no means is this a negative light shed on my career, in fact, I have never seen it so illuminated. Mentally, I feel more confident and as if I have built a true foundation for myself from the ground up. However, I do find myself feeling uncomfortable most days. But, why? I’m qualified, maintained a high GPA in college, and spend a lot of time creating original material for my students. Why wouldn’t I feel on top of the world? When you step into a classroom with students you need to spend months learning inside and out, strengths and weaknesses of them and yourself, make your way through observations, paperwork, IEP meetings, provide accurate, multi-sensory scientific information for young students…it does catch up to you. You begin to realize what’s truly important. I’ve spent time searching through my reflective journals, lesson plans, and mental notes. I have realized if I feel uncomfortable: it’s because I am growing. I am breaking free of the “everyday routine” and working towards self-improvement.
It’s an uphill battle
Developing mental strength is a beautiful thing, though. It’s okay to not feel okay sometimes. It’s okay to question yourself. It’s okay to celebrate your achievements. Feeling all of these emotions is what helps you shape your mind and gives you the strength to make it from Monday through Friday and beyond; for yourself, your job, and your students. So keep failing forward. I choose to persevere. I am a proud teacher, but most importantly, I am only human.
- Casey Downie, BA , P-12 Biology/Teacher of Students with Disabilities, is a 6th Grade Science/Special Ed. teacher at Thompson Middle School, Middletown Township, NJ.