Let’s just be frank, no one remembers the first year of teaching so I’m not going to waste time talking to that young dreamer. This post will be to the Year 2 me. The year I realized that I DID NOT know what I was doing!!
Dearest Young, Childless, Fresh-out-of-college Allyson,
Hi. How are you? I’ve been thinking a lot about you. You have a boundless amount of energy, you are working so hard to be better and sweetie, you’ve realized that diploma hanging on your wall is just a piece of paper. I know you are a little scared and wondering if this is the place for you. The University of North Texas did its best to teach you about the real world of teaching, but they didn’t. They told you a lot of things NOT to do but not enough of WHAT to do.
So I’m going to shoot you straight. I love you and hate to see you burn out. I’m going to tell you what they were afraid to tell you. Please listen to me because you have a lot to learn.
Find your People: That is a great place to start. People that can make paper mache with you at midnight, eat dinner at Pizza Inn after you have planned for 8 hours for a one hour lesson and laugh with you when you are lost in Dallas on a Thursday Night while trying to do a good deed. They will sometimes be the reason you get up in the morning.
Listen to the children: Behavior management doesn’t always go as planned. That cool behavior plan your college professor told you about, well that was a fictional class, and it’s not working. Some days the children in your room just need you to sit and listen to them. They need you to get to know them. They want you to ask them what is wrong and when they can’t tell you, they need you to just hug them. They need you to call their parents, grandparents and Child Protective Services some days because many times you are all they’ve got.
Dress the Part: Girl, you are rocking the teacher style; that Laura Ashley dress your Momma made, those blue jean jumpers, those Peter Pan collars, that amazing Eagle Eye seasonal sweater, the apple button covers, earrings, and necklaces. Again, you are rocking it. Keep up the good work! And while we are on the topic, wear a pretty dress and lipstick on the first day and the last day of the year. The kids will remember it. PSA: All of the above will be worn again at a Christmas School Party in 2017, so hang on to them.
Have fun with the kids. Play at recess. Dress up on dress up days. Dance at Mav Fan Jams. Dress and sing like Beyonce. Play games, put together puzzles and just sit down sometimes and paint with them. (Don’t worry, you did these things and are still doing these things but there might be a young teacher reading this.)
Make friends with the teachers with the most experience and learn as much as you can from them. (This one deserved a whole sentence underlined.) The people you surround yourself with can push you to new heights, hold you in place or bring you down. So find the experienced and stick with them. They have seen it all and would love to help you. Let them. They aren’t scared of you either. They actually enjoy your fresh view on teaching. Hug them, listen to them and then thank them every chance you get.
Mental Health Days…Take them: First – start with you. Ask your bestie to take off too. Go to a crazy Christmas bazaar or lunch or shopping or go home and just take a nap without your personal children. Then, take a mental health day to be with your own children when they are NOT sick. One day will not destroy a whole year worth of loving and learning other people’s children. Your own children deserve it.
Speaking of mental health: A child’s mental health is more important than their grades. Everyone has a chapter they don’t read out loud. So listen but also talk to them. Laugh but also show them when to be serious. Sometimes let a rule be broken but also demand respect. But never let a child go home thinking you don’t care about them because they will never forget how you made them feel.
Just a few more things:
*Buy good shoes and don’t worry about how cute they are or how much they cost. Jeremy won’t mind.
*Never pass up an opportunity to pee. They are few a far between sweetie!
*Don’t be scared to say you don’t agree with something you think isn’t good for children. But do your research so you can back it up.
*You will be a better teacher when you have your own children. (This one took 9 years for you to realize but you finally did and you know it’s the truth.)
*You will always have papers to grade, emails to answer and lessons to write, so please spend your weekends with the people you love the most.
*If a kiddo offers you a cookie, cupcake or other treat that they personally made, take it. (Now I’m not saying you have to eat it. But act like you can’t wait to eat it after school and then find a special place for it.)
*Sometimes it takes years for you to see the difference you are making. Don’t give up.
*Never ever complain about a student, their parent or how hard you work, in public. You learned this lesson the hard way. Just saying!
*Learn to say “I’m sorry!” See above.
And last, there will be heartache and disappointment, but without going all in, you have no chance of making a difference. So go to ball games, plays, concerts, and funerals of your students. And that last one sucks. But go, it will make you see the difference you made.
And never, ever, ever doubt the importance of what you do!
I love you and go be amazing!!
The Older, Momma of two, 26 years-out-of-college Allyson