Today was the first day of school for incoming freshmen in my building. I woke up with complete enthusiasm. I’m not exaggerating. When my friend greeted me in the parking lot of our building, I squealed and did a little first day of school dance. She thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.
I LOVE the first day of school. In fact, this year, I was more excited for the first day of school than I ever have been before. This year, I enter my fifth year of teaching and intend to beat a very frightening statistic: when it comes to teachers, “…between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years” (The Hechinger Report).
Last year, I changed school districts and began teaching at a Title 1 school in the largest school district in Omaha, Nebraska. While I had three years experience prior to entering my building, and had even completed my student teaching experience there, nothing could have prepared me for the experience more than living through it. I was excited to make a difference in the district where I began my career but there were many things that I wasn’t prepared for.
I wasn’t prepared to learn that it would take longer to build relationships with many of my students compared to how quickly my former students were drawn in.
I wasn’t prepared for how physically exhausting it can be to use low-tech/no-tech engagement strategies in the classroom instead of engaging students in a high tech environment.
I wasn’t prepared for block scheduling and how some days, forty-five extra minutes can seem like a year and a half…for me and the kids.
I wasn’t prepared to be called a racist, not out of any actual basis for that claim, but simply out of anger for my doling out an unrelated consequence.
Last year was a hard year. I almost didn’t make it. Instead, through the support of my wonderful family and incredible colleagues, I was constantly reminded of the big picture and, more importantly, the small moments of glory along the way.
You know what else I wasn’t prepared for last year?
I wasn’t prepared to have not just one, but an entire team of the most supportive administrators out there, guiding, encouraging, and providing feedback and support all year long.
I wasn’t prepared to laugh so hard at lunch with my colleagues every day that my stomach hurt heading back to fourth block.
I wasn’t prepared for the hardest class I’ve ever taught to turn around so drastically and become such a well-behaved group.
I wasn’t prepared to build positive relationships with students while supervising after school detention.
I wasn’t prepared for such an overwhelmingly positive outcome to a whimsical service-learning project implemented by a group of my credit recovery students. The tears shed that day alone will always remind me why I became an educator.
I wasn’t prepared for the hugs I received last year on the last day of school. Clearly in the end, our time together meant just as much to them as it did to me.
I wasn’t prepared for all the times I would tear up throughout the year, seeing the beautiful community that our school has built, inside of the classroom and out. From academics, to Homecoming, Boo Bash, Mr. Bryan High, state soccer, and the Apple Squad formed in my B8 classroom…
You see, as hard as some of the hard times were, the good times beyond made up for them. My long-term goals in education don’t necessarily include me as a full time classroom teacher forever, but one thing is for sure: as an educator, both inside of the classroom and out, I will continue to remain positive. I will continue to see the good in my students. I will continue to have faith that I can help make a difference, teach positive behavior, and impact their lives. I will continue to believe that my students can and will do great things.
I get picked on a lot by my colleagues for being grossly optimistic. I don’t try to paint a picture that I what I do isn’t hard. I think that my optimism is what keeps me going. It’s the battery pack that I have to wear to get me through the tough times. I’m not the “don’t let them see you smile until Christmas” type. I was more like a kid at Christmas today and I hope that energy rubbed off on all of the students I encountered on this first day. This year is going to be great. I can tell already. Cheers to the first five years!