Feel Like You’re Doing Everything Wrong?
You’re not. Are you looking around your classroom at the end of every day, feeling defeated, confused, and exhausted? It’s okay. As a matter of fact, you sound like a really wonderful teacher. No, I am not jumping to conclusions (I know that’s what you’re thinking) well-perhaps I am, but if you are feeling defeated and frustrated that means you recognize that things are not working like you expected, and that means that you CARE. That, right there, is a teacher. We all thought we were going to fly out of grad school and change the world on day one. Admit it, you were ready to make the biggest difference in the lives of 20-30 tiny people and inspire them to live a better life, all before the end of your first 180 days of your career. Now that you think about it, seems a bit unrealistic doesn’t it?
I felt this way, too. It was a brutal fall from cloud 9 as I came crashing down among the disarray of my first classroom- an unorganized, un-managed, unsupported mess. I felt like the biggest failure ever. Six years later, as I look back on that first year, I’ve realized that I was in good company.
The thing is, teachers really aren’t prepared for the realities of day to day teaching. We are educated on practices that are all “the best” … in a vacuum. By now you’ve seen first hand that there is WAY more to teaching than you thought, more than you were taught, and maybe even more than you think you can handle! I promise you, though, you’ve got this. If you are reading this that means you care enough to spend time figuring this teaching thing out.
To start you off, I’ll say this:
First, it’s hard to be a BAD teacher. Sure, you may not provide the most memorable, life-changing, technologically advanced year for your class, but they aren’t leaving you dumber. If you are doing something in that classroom, those little monsters are learning. Take comfort in the fact that you ARE teaching them something, and they are learning from you. (I’ve seen students pass despite being in a classroom where the teacher was doing far less than what I presume you are doing.)
Second, there is a lot of truth in the saying, “They may not remember what you said, they may not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them FEEL.” If your students see that you care about them and are invested in them, then you are a true teacher, because…
Teaching isn’t hard.
I mean, not everyone can do it, but once you are one, you realize it. You just spent 4 + years in school learning how to teach, and ironically that’s not the part you need help with. If you are meant to be a teacher, the teaching comes naturally. The love, the patience, the creativity- all of that is par for the course for someone who truly loves to teach.
HOWEVER…once you are in your first classroom, you realize that there are so many facets of teaching that were not covered in those graduate courses. For instance, I never took a course on Lesson Planning. Sure, there were portions of courses that required me to write lesson plans. But those were typically ridiculously long, pre-made templates that are pretty unrealistic in the real world of teaching. I’d spend 6 hours creating a 45 minute lesson. That ratio won’t get you past your first week. Did you ever have a semester of “How To Deal With a Student Who Talks Back?” or “How to Organize your Copies?” Yeah…me neither.
Allow me to propose the schedule that should be required in teacher-prep programs:
Technology 600: Using the Copy Machine (note this is a graduate level course because it requires lots of technology prerequisites that you didn’t realize you’d need to work one of these danged things)
Data Management & Analysis 312: (prerequisite: Statistics 101) How to organize and analyze academic and behavioral data for 20-30 tiny people over the course of 10 months.
Data Management & Analysis 313: A course specifically designed to ensure that the teaching candidate understands how important this data is and how to use it.
Seating Charts 101: How to effectively create a seating chart (that allows each student to thrive and do their best work with no distractions) in less than 5 hours.
Psychology 102: Understanding and navigating school politics
Differentiate-ish 101: How to differentiate daily in your classroom, but still prepare each child to take the same state standardized tests, and why this makes sense. Schedule TBA: there is still no professor available who can actually explain this…
Unfortunately this teacher-prep program is not currently available. 🙂
Luckily, though, I have the next best thing for you! Out if frustration with my own first year teaching experiences, plus the lack of real and honest dialogue out there, I wrote a book. It’s a short book, but it gets the job done! (And, there will be more to come…)
The title So This Is Teaching?, came honestly enough as I ask myself that question almost weekly. This book is a humorous, honest, sometimes raw look at the first few days in my career.
…it also is chock-full of some really great TIPS and ADVICE to ensure that you totally rock your first year! Starting with your interview and taking you through that limbo period between getting hired and the first day of school.
Here’s a snippet of what I share in the book…
Ya’ll, you don’t even know the half of it! When I say my first year was rough, I mean it nearly broke me. I was very close to becoming a statistic because I was so overwhelmed and under-prepared.
Simply stated– I don’t want anyone to feel as lost as I did during their first year teaching. Through the New Teacher Survival Guide, we have covered some important topics that will help you as you embark on the next chapter in your career. This was supposed to be the final installment is this series, and instead it has taken on a life if it’s own!
So This is Teaching?: The First Days of School is book 1 of a series that will help guide and encourage you through your entire first year. Future topics include:
- Behavior management
- parent/teacher conferences
- small group instruction
- and all of the other topics that I haven’t thought of yet, but will pop in my head along the way!
Now picture me, standing with the Miss America sash and crown, saying, “I just want to help people!”
I mean, I want world peace and all that, but I’ll start with a smaller scale. I really want to help New teachers, specifically, because I don’t think there is enough good support out there.
So This Is Teaching? is like one of those gourmet meals you get in a fancy restaurant in NYC- smaller than you think you want, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. You will leave the book satisfied and (I hope) wanting to come back for more!
Check it out!