For years I taught middle school, and despite what most people might think, I loved the age group of kiddos I worked with at that level. But this year I changed districts, schools, and yes, even grades. This isn’t my first time being a not-so-first-year-teacher (a veteran teacher learning the ropes in a new school) but this year, my fellow newbies were, in fact, newbies. The 4 other teachers hired with me are experiencing their very first year of teaching and watching their tired faces grace the halls first thing Monday morning has made me take pause and reflect on my very first year. (Ironically, that very first of first years was in the same district I am currently employed; my teaching career has officially come full circle!)
My very first year of teaching was also my first year of motherhood, so to say I slept very little is quite the understatement! I can remember clearly picking up my son from daycare before they closed at 5:30 only to whisk him back to school with me, rushing down a quick dinner on the way, so that I could finish some task like inputting grades or prepping a lab. On Fridays, I would load up my car with a 100+ student notebooks and other materials, prepared to spend my weekends strategically grading and planning from one nap time to the next. The first half of that first year was a blurred whirlwind of barely making it from day to day. I confess to showing perhaps one too many Bill Nye videos during that first half of the first year, clamoring for any extra time I could get.
But even though those first months were unbelievably crazy, I also made sure to take advantage of every conference and professional development opportunity that came my way. Through these tools I gained an abundance of knowledge and know-how. By the time Winter break rolled around, I have no doubt I was zombie like in appearance. Still, I spent a decent chunk of my two-weeks reworking everything I had been doing up to that point. New lessons, new methods, new ideas (and a decent amount of sleep too!) When I returned, Bill Nye was no longer a fixture in our weekly line-up. The students were taken aback for sure, the level of rigor and accountability had certainly risen ten-fold. But it was a few weeks in to our new regime that I realized just how much my students had taken notice of the change. “You know Ms. Green,” a student said as I was passing out the latest assignment, “I liked it better when you didn’t know what you were doing.”
To this day, that comment makes me laugh and I think about it at the start of every new year. But I have especially thought of it this year as I have found myself surrounded by so many new teachers. We have amazing teacher preparation programs in California and yet, just like with parenthood, there is simply nothing that can prepare you for that very first, first year. So as I watch their tired faces roam the halls in zombie-like fashion, I offer up this little blessing: your kiddos love you no matter what, and sometimes they love you more when you don’t know what you are doing.