Friday, August 27, 2010

Reflecting Back on the First Year of Teaching

I clearly remember 13 years ago preparing for my first group of third graders.  Intermittent sleep with dreams of incompetence and students running amok were nightly occurrences leading up to that dreaded, yet thrilling first day.  I had no direction and no clue of what to do.  I was clearly unprepared for the job that laid ahead of me.  Yes, I did have some kind colleagues who tried to show me the way.  They were very well meaning, but they had experience and knowledge that takes years to acquire.  At that point my mind was too cluttered and unfocused to listen with clarity.  The brain of a 22 year old can only take in so much.  The University of Connecticut tried to prepare me with four years of undergraduate work plus a Master's degree in the fifth.  Unfortunately a teacher is never prepared for that first year no matter their college experience.  The decisions to be made, the relationships that need to be built, the problems that arise, the parent and student issues are all too numerous to accurately calculate.  The factors are endless.  Thinking back, I did the best I could, but surely my best was not good enough.  I sure hope preservice teacher preparation has improved since 1996.

Heading into my 14th year, I feel confident and comfortable beginning the year with a sense of purpose and a greater understanding of what lies ahead.  I know there will be an infinite number of decisions to be made, but each requires much less thought and effort compared with those of a decade ago.  Many decisions are automatic now with no need to belabor the question or situation.  This is what experience brings.  I am no longer endlessly bogged down with the tiny details that need to be thought out and worked out; the thousands of little problems that arise.  I can primarily focus on what is important, teaching and student learning.

The intermittent sleep and the strange dreams still occur, but I am thankful that I now have the experience and the tools to deal with most of the situations and decisions that need to be made daily in the classroom.

That first group of students will be graduating college this year.  The cycle continues.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it amazing! I hate to think how old that first group of hearing impaired students I taught are. Yikes! Lately, I've taken to the less dramatic route to starting a year. No obsessing=long nights of good, restful sleep; Staying in the 'now'=full days of fun with my family. I've finally learned how to see the forest, despite the trees that are just about knocking on my door! And thank goodness we can bounce ideas off one another, so we don't have to feel alone in our profession anymore. (That was the most awful part of being a rookie!) It's gonna be a great year!