At the beginning of this year when I moved to my new school, I ran into a caretaker that was doing some summer shifts. She asked me if I used to work at Woodward Avenue School. I said that I did in my first year of teaching. It turns out that she was in my Grade 1 class. I totally remember teaching her. I remember connecting with her family. I remember that year at Woodward. I remember questioning if I made the right choice. Was teaching for me?
I always wanted to be a teacher. When I graduated from the Faculty of Education, I met my goal, and I thought, “I’m going to get to spend the rest of my life doing what I love.” I had many teaching experiences prior to this point. I was confident that it was going to be an amazing first year!
But instead …
- It was overwhelming.
- I never felt like I could get ahead.
- I was teaching two different grades at two different schools, and travelling between them on my lunch hour.
- I was completely disorganized: I had piles of paper everywhere.
- I was more concerned with teaching programs than teaching students.
- I was sharing two classrooms, and never had things in either one ready to go.
- Students could sense that I was feeling flustered. I always found myself managing behaviour and never actually teaching.
- I thought that I would be a good teacher, but instead, I felt like a failure.
Thinking back now though, I learned a lot that year.
- I learned that I’m calmer in an organized classroom, and my students are as well.
- I learned that we need to connect with our students and learn about their needs.
- I learned that one program does not meet all student needs.
- I learned that all students deserve our best every single day.
- I learned that we need to connect with staff. Teachers also need support systems.
- I learned that a deep breath and a calm voice can make a big difference.
- I learned that “teaching” is also about learning, and that I’m determined to keep on learning.
- I learned the value in hard work and perseverance, and that it’s worth sticking with something you love.
- I learned the value in change, and I learned a lot from the changes I made.
- I learned that we all need to try, and fail, and try again. If we want our students to do this, we have to as well.
And to that student that I taught back in my first year, I apologize: you deserved a better “me.” I did get better though — and I continue to improve — because of what I started learning 14 years ago. I can only hope that you learned as much from that year as I did. What did you learn from your first year of teaching? What have you learned since then? I’d love to hear your stories!