I debated on what order to place the next three blog posts. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of my first year back in the classroom after a 10 year hiatus. I decided I will start with the bad… go to the ugly and finish off with the good. A positive note. A happy note.
So what was so bad about my first year back in the classroom? I should probably put a disclaimer out there that “the bad and the ugly” really only happened during first semester.
- Freshman are hard. In my previous teaching experience I taught mainly eighth, tenth, and eleventh grade. I only taught freshman one semester. Freshman are hard. The transition to high school is vast. It’s not just going to a bigger school. It’s the expectations, the amount of classes/homework, no longer getting an A on a test without studying, etc. Students have a hard time with all of the social and emotional changes in their freshman year. When you add on the academic challenges of being in high school the first 9 weeks it might make them implode. I put this as “the bad” but I do have to tell you the good side to this. I did learn this year, I am GOOD for freshman. They drive me crazy at times but my expectations are high and I work with them to meet those expectations laying the foundation for other classes in high school. I am a good communicator with parents. This helps the parents adapt to high school as well. I try to keep them in the loop about their child and his/her progress. Technology helps me a lot. I use Google Calendar for all of my assignments. I email when big things are happening in class. I try to not let them be uninformed about their child in my class.
- School Community. One of the things I was looking for as I made the transition back to the classroom was the sense of community a school has. Due to the size of our school (Over 2000 students and 100 faculty members), community can be a challenge. It also didn’t help that I was a former District Office employee who was moving back to the classroom. There were a lot of questions as to why. “Who would leave the District Office to go back to the classroom?” “She must be a spy.” “She must have done something wrong.” I was not to be trusted until people got to the core of why I was teaching again. When I made my decision I wrote about why take a look back. As you will see repeatedly as I reflect, I will go more in depth about the District Office to teacher transition in another blog post. There is a good side to this as well. About mid January, I was what I would have considered to be “accepted” but people at the school. I began to feel that sense of community I was longing for.
- Disappointment about student learning. One of my biggest disappointments for the first semester is what students would do for the “points.” It wasn’t about learning. It was about getting the most points to make the highest grade. The realization that points were more valuable than learning made me think ‘maybe I don’t need to put as much in to this. It isn’t what they care about.’ One rookie move for me was not thinking that every possible test bank I could use for tests was online. I had students memorize test questions from online test banks they would find. I was quick to catch on though… by the second test I had a student ask me a question about the test. The student kept saying, “The answer for this should be E but it’s not.” I asked the student what needed to be clarified on the question. The student repeated the comment. At that moment I knew this student had memorized the questions. because I rearranged the answers and the student memorized that question’s answer to be E.
- The feeling of not being good at what I used to love. This was the biggest “bad” for me. I felt lost. With trying to not sound like I am bragging, I am not usually bad at anything I try or put my mind to do. My true first year of teaching was in a rural South Carolina school. The students were all from lower socio-economics and the baggage they brought to school with them daily broke my heart. But that year seemed easier to me than first semester of this year. I wasn’t living up to MY expectations. I loved teaching when I taught. Why wasn’t I loving it now? This is all I ever wanted to do when I was a kid. Why didn’t all the students love my class? Why weren’t they doing homework? Why wasn’t I implementing all of the things I learned that make great classrooms? I was stressed by daily teacher to do’s, IEPs, 504s, this meeting, that meeting, Student Learning Objectives, etc. I couldn’t focus on learning my content because I was stressed about this student not acting right or what if a child emails his/her mother during class saying I am doing or not doing something for their child. (This one happened by the way) I spent so much time worrying that I never got anything done. I always felt two steps behind. I didn’t know what to do so I slowly started opening up to my department head. She was my sounding board and my soothsayer. If it weren’t for her, I am not sure I would have made it.
The bad was horrible while going through it. At this point, all of these points seem so far away. The bad made me a better educator. It actually ended up fueling my passion to be better at what I do. My next post is going to look at the ugly of #Year17Year1. I am going to dive deeper in to the anxiety, crying, loneliness, and WTF moments.
Keep in mind the reason I can write about this now is because I am passed it. I have to get to the ugly to get to the good.