Hello and happy Saturday. If you’re reading this, it means I finally made it through my very first year as a school teacher! Yay! Now, here’s the deal: I kept telling myself that this was going to be a great year and it wouldn’t suck like I’ve heard many people say, and what I found out is that I had to stop and let go of many ideas and attitudes I had and sort of just go with the flow. Here’s what I learned throughout my first year as a teacher:
1. Some people are going to compare you to their previous teacher
Now, I don’t know if this can be a general situation or if it just applies to cases like mine, in which I fulfilled the position of a teacher who’d been working at school for three years and left for an exchange. Long story short, both parents and students loved this teacher and at first had a very hard time adapting themselves to me. Obviously, it was easier for the boys than it was for their parents to understand that I was now their teacher.
I’ll tell you this, though, it was tough for me to go ahead and do my own thing while people kept referring to what the other teacher used to do. It would’ve been easier to just “copy” her, be exactly like she was, but by doing so I would’ve betrayed my own personal style, so I didn’t, and in the end my way of doing things worked.
2. You don’t have it all figured out, and you’ll for sure make newbie mistakes
During my first week of school, one of my pre-k boys spilled his milk over his desk and the floor. I sent him, a four-year-old, on his own, to look for a cleaning lady. A few minutes later, his homeroom teacher was taking him by the hand back to the classroom and telling me I couldn’t just send kids to wander around school because they had no clue where I was sending them to. Oops.
Another time, this one more recently, I sent an email with a homework, but forgot to tell the kids to take their books to do said homework, and only remembered that teeny tiny detail once I was on the bus, coming home. Take a wild guess at the amount of notes I received the following day.
These are just two examples of the mistakes I made throughout the year, and the reason I made them is because 1) I didn’t have any experience as a school teacher and somethings are bound to be learned the hard way, by messing up; and 2) even if I had tons of experience, I’m still human and I still make mistakes, which is totally and perfectly okay.
3. You can go through five hours straight talking to parents
Okay, so in my school, parent-teacher conferences are kind of different to what I was used to. Parents talk to homeroom teachers alright, but the other teachers are also available in case parents need to talk to us. We can also request for them to approach us if we need to talk about something specific to them related to their kid’s performance in our class.
In these conferences, I sort of felt like I was giving out stickers or brownies because my table was always full. Parents would actually line up to talk to me. The cause might be point number 1, and also the fact that parents these days are, and I’m saying this with all the respect there is, freaking annoying.
I, however, proved to be more charming than I’d ever been, at sat down, and smiled to these parents, and talked to them about their kids, making them feel guilty for ever doubting my abilities as a teacher. No, but in all seriousness, I found out just how much I can endure that I thought I couldn’t. I struggle meeting new people, and I don’t like parent-teacher meetings, but I went through them and it was fine.
4. Once the final bell rings, you’re no longer a teacher
This, of course, is a lie and we all know it, but let me explain myself. By this I mean two things, and it’s two things I had to remind myself over and over, at least for the first few months.
On one hand, it means that whatever issues I had during the school day should stay at school at the end of the day. Yes, it’s hard, but the truth is, constantly thinking about the problems I had while at work is not going to solve them, and it’s going to make the rest of my day miserable. During school hours, if there’s a problem, I have to deal with it, no doubt about that, but at 4 pm that problem ceases to exist, even if I haven’t yet solved it.
On the other hand, it’s related to taking work home. I used to have an afternoon job before starting in this school, and I would get home at night, so I never ever took work home because there was no way that I’d stay up at night to get it done. At the beginning of this school year, I swore to myself I wouldn’t take anything from school to finish at home, and I don’t know when I started breaking that rule, until I found myself finishing stuff from school at home on a regular basis.
It was hard forcing myself to stop working after the final bell rang, even if I wasn’t done with something. There should would be time to do stuff the following day. I now dedicate my afternoons to working out, writing these posts, or simply watching YouTube videos. Sometimes I’ll be on Pinterest and get a nice idea for a class, it happens, which is why I started by saying that it’s a lie when I say I cease being a teacher by 4 pm, but I’m doing that for pleasure and not obligation.
5. It’s okay to have doubts
At my previous job, I worked mostly on one-on-one sessions with kids who needed reinforcement in one or two subjects. I had time to plan my classes, and absolute freedom to choose how to do things. I talked to parents in a very relaxing way, and they were always super thankful because I was helping their kids succeed at school. Imagine what I felt when I was told I had to plan my classes according to these books, and when I started getting asked by kids where their former teacher was, and when parents sent rude notes my way because they didn’t understand how to do their homework.
For the first few weeks, I questioned whether I’d made the right choice by leaving. When I quit, I was offered a better position, and I was quick to refuse it because I wanted to teach at a school, that had been my goal since I was fifteen years old and decided to become a teacher. There I was, though, fulfilling said goal, scared, confused, and honestly, deflated. I started wondering whether I might be better at personalized instruction rather than teaching groups of kids.
I also missed wearing whatever I wanted, including a ton of makeup and clothes that revealed my tattoos. In this school there’s a dress code, that applies only to women, but that might be the topic of another post: black pants and black shoes. We can also wear a black skirt, or a skirt with black tights, but I was used to wearing jeans and even sweats sometimes when I led dance classes. I haven’t dyed my hair in a year because I want it to be either rose gold, or peach, or gray, and I know the school won’t allow it.
This might sound dumb to some, but I’m twenty-three years old, and I feel like this is the time when I should be able to dress the way I want to, and look the way I want to. I wasn’t meant to be conventional, I despise conventional, and I know there are places that allow me to be and look however I want to, even if they’re not big schools like the one I used to want to work at. And that has me thinking that maybe I can be a non-traditional teacher, and that I’ve tried the way schools in Colombia work and it’s not for me, not right now.
6. One year doesn’t define your whole career, but it might change your mind about stuff
I started out as a preschool teacher because that was the job opening available and when asked I said “yes please.” I struggled a bit and learned a whole lot, and fell in love with teaching young kids, which is something I never would’ve dreamed of. I always thought I’d end up teaching elementary school or even higher grades for that matter. And yet, even though I know my career as a teacher is just starting, I feel that I have more elements to teach young learners, and I feel that I can continue walking that path for some years.
What are some of the things you learned during your first year as teachers? Let me know!
Love, Miss Camila