It’s hard to believe that it is already my third year teaching. It seems like just yesterday I was getting the keys to my classroom, walking into the space that would be mine, sitting down at my desk, and dissolving into tears. After years of dreaming of being a teacher, my first reaction upon arriving into my new classroom was to start sobbing. And these weren’t tears of joy or of a dreaming coming true- these tears were because I was completely overwhelmed
I was well-prepared to enter the classroom. I spent my elementary school days playing school every Saturday morning and my high school days running my school’s chapter of FEA. In college, I took every class I could find that would make me a better teacher. I attended teaching conferences, taught Sunday School, and took every summer job I could find that would help me become a better teacher. I even spent a year teaching abroad in Ireland before I settled into full-time teaching. However, there was something about seeing that classroom, the desk filled with resources, and the shelves full of required books that made me feel like I was totally in over my head.
That first week of professional development was overwhelming. I started crying on the phone to my mom in a Target parking lot, absolutely convinced I couldn’t do it. I had several panic attacks during meetings and could hardly sleep at night. I remember reading teacher blogs, already knit-picking my non-existence practices and wondering if what I was doing was enough. The anticipation of the school year was torture.
To be really honest, things didn’t get easier when the school year started. The first year of teaching is really hard. I had a few successes: helping a struggling student enjoy Shakespeare and starting a Renaissance Faire project that most of the school participated in. But for the most part, everything was a mess. I made countless errors, had some of the cringiest management mistakes, and once had a box of Girl Scout cookies stolen off my desk and eaten by my students. I had a lot of days where I felt like a complete joke. I didn’t even get excited for the weekend because I knew I’d spend all my time planning and grading, with little time for myself. But it took that year of mistakes, embarrassment, and sacrifice to realize how I needed to improve and to find my confidence as an educator. The summer following my first year, I geared up for a new year by attending a management conference, taking a trauma-informed teaching training, and revising my writing curriculum to meet students where they were at.
My second year was so much easier. My management issues lessoned. I built real relationships with students. I crafted a curriculum that that helped them grow into strong writers. I was able to do more of the creative activities that I struggled to implement my first year. I stepped into leadership positions in my school community, as an advisor for Student Government and the school play. I finally felt the transformative moment that I was finally flourishing. While I still have a few bad days, I feel like I’ve really found my stride as an educator and I love it.
Based on my own struggles, here are my tips for first years:
I'm Megan and I teach high school ELA. I'm all about literature, creativity, and aesthetics!