First-year teacher. noun. A title given to teachers who are brand new and just figuring out how on earth to do this teaching thing. See also: Ms. Christenson.
I’ve finished Week 2 of the new-teacher thing. And it’s still weird to answer the question, “So, what do you do?”
“I’m a teacher,” I say. And the cashier at Target or the person in church thinks that I stand in front of a room and talk to kids about books. Which is partly true. But only partly. Here’s what I’ve really done this week.
I have set a lot of boundaries.
I’ve had so many conversations in the hallway over the past five days, about causing distractions and making better choices and having more respect. So many stages have been set for further consequences because we have talked about this and I have given you ample warning and I do not enjoy getting you in trouble but this needs to change. I have no idea if my success rate in this is normal, or if I’m doing this in the most effective way, or if my students will rebel tomorrow. But I’m trying.
I’ve graded thousands of papers.
Not quite. But it feels like it. The grading piles up infuriatingly fast, especially at the end of a trimester. My roommate, a fellow teacher, is a rock star about doing all of her grading on the day the students hand in their work. I now understand, and I think she’s a genius. However, this is falling into the category of things-I-should-do-but-can’t-actually-pull-off. Similar to how I should do my dishes every day but don’t.
I have cherished any and all moments of silence.
Why do they have to talk all of the time? And ask questions all of the time? And complain all of the time? Am I the only one who drives home from work in silence most days?
I have gone to bed at 10:30 on a Friday night. And then slept for 12 hours.
That’s earlier than I go to bed on weeknights. By Friday night, I am so tired I can no longer function. I may never have a social life again. (Not that mine was that wild in the first place. But now there’s no chance.)
I have questioned EVERYTHING.
Namely: Am I doing this right? Is this working? Are my students learning anything? Is this going to all fall apart in a week? Is there a color copier in the building? How do I write a referral to the office? Am I actually doing all the stuff (or any of the stuff) I learned in college? What would my supervisor say?
I have celebrated the smallest of victories.
Such as: discovering the microphone as a way to maintain my calm conversational voice and still be heard (thanks, Mom). The students quieting down more quickly for a test at the end of the week than they did at the beginning. Having a girl ask me about the book I’m reading. My eighth graders’ looks at my over-the-top enthusiasm to their classmate’s comment about liking Parks and Rec. Not forgetting to leave a students’ homework at the Student Services desk. Having one kid tell me, “I noticed your gold stuff today.” (He meant my eye shadow. I almost died.) Feeling like, if nothing else is going right, at least my teacher outfits are okay.
I have been a teacher.