Saturday, August 31, 2013

Letter to Self: Teacher Edition

I've been teaching for six years now.  That's not very long, but I believe I've learned a thing or two in the past six years.  I have been reflecting a lot lately and thinking about things I could have done differently in my career.  I wish I could start over with the knowledge I have today.  If I could write a letter to my first-year-teacher-self, it would read a little like this:

Dear Ashley,
     Congratulations!  Your hard work has paid off!  You are about to step into your very own classroom.  Your dream is about to become reality.  You've wanted to be a teacher since you were 7 years old!  You grew up "playing school" and your dry erase board was your favorite "toy."

Before you begin this journey, there are some things you need to know:

1.  The students will be nothing like the stuffed animals you lined up in front of you to "teach" when you were younger.  Real school will NOT run as smoothly as play school.  These 5th graders will not sit still and hang on to your every word.  In addition, things will not always go as planned.  Interruptions will happen--fire drills will be announced at inopportune times, various critters (like snakes and mice) will find their way into your classroom and chaos will ensue, kids will get sick, spills will happen--just go with the flow and try not to get too frustrated.   

2.  Don't compare yourself to the teacher next door.  Yes, she is a fabulous and phenomenal educator and you will wish you could be like that.  However, don't discount the gifts and talents God has given you.  We all have different talents and gifts; use yours to the best of your ability.  Do not try to be Mrs. Thon.  You will not be a good imitation of her.  You're better off being the "original" Mrs. Bowman.  Besides, your teaching partner has 25 more years of teaching experience than you!  It isn't fair to compare yourself to her.   
3.  Learn as much as you can from this master teacher next door.  Ask her more questions than you already do.  Ask to observe her.  Take in everything she has to offer.  She will become your best friend...your BTF....Superwoman....and you will only get three short years to teach with her.  Take in every moment because she is the best teacher you will ever work with.
4.  Get out of your room and get to know the other teachers.  I know you feel isolated because of your location on campus, but make an effort to go to the other buildings and get to know the other teachers.  You will find great mentors and sweet friends.

5.  Spend time with co-workers who are positive and actually enjoy teaching.  Stay away from those who are negative, and be very careful what you share.  Remember what your 10th grade teacher told you--"If a person talks to you about others, he/she will talk to others about you."  This is SO true (even among adult teachers who should know better)!

6.  Don't be a chameleon.  Try to be yourself.  This is difficult for you, I know, because you want everyone to like you.  Well, the truth is, not every person will like you.  You have to accept this.  It's okay.  You will not be able to please everyone. 

7.  The students will get upset with you, but they will get over it.  Don't be a pushover when it comes to discipline just because you feel that the children will dislike you.  Correct behavior and don't let the kids get away with acting inappropriately.  You are not there to be their friend.  You are there to guide them, protect them, teach them, and act as a positive role model for them.  Don't be afraid to follow through with your behavior management plan.  Of course, the students will not enjoy negative consequences, but they will get over it.  Hopefully, they will learn something!

8.  Don't be intimidated by parents and parent/teacher conferences.  Most parents want to help; they are not out to get you.  You are members of the same team, and you have the same goal--to see these children grow and succeed this school year. 

9.  Pray a lot!  Pray for the students and their families, your co-workers, staff, and administration, and for your own spiritual journey.  You will see God in incredible ways this year (mostly through the lives of Jeanne Thon and Tammy Neel).  You will learn more about God's grace than you've ever known before.  Keep your spiritual eyes wide open.

10.  Try to rest as much as you can on the weekends.  Sunday nights will be difficult for you because you will be so excited about work on Monday morning that you can't even sleep.  Get used to this.  It won't go away for at least 5 years.  ;)  

Get ready for a great school year.  You will SO enjoy teaching!  You will have moments where you cry and cry because you are overjoyed that God placed you in this field and you can't believe how good things are.  You will also have moments where you cry and cry because it is so challenging and you don't understand why things are the way they are.  Teaching will not always be easy, but you will find it very rewarding.  

Enjoy the journey,
1st Day of School--First Year 
So excited! (Please excuse the mess; we had just moved in.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this!! I'll be teaching in the elementary school for the first time this September (Pre-K before this). I'm nervous and of course want to be perfect but this really helped. Especially #9.