When I did my student-teaching a couple of years ago, I used to long for Friday afternoon like Romeo longed for Juliet. As much as I loved (and still love) what I was doing, it was always great to make it to the weekend.
And yes, being back in the classroom, that feeling as returned. Although we got off to a slow start due to Tropical Storm Fay, school started on Wednesday, and I just completed my first week of teaching. How was it? Great. Challenging. Exciting. Exhilarating. Exhausting. Memorable. I could keep going, but I won’t.
I think that part of what people don’t understand about teaching is the amount of preparation that it requires. I liken it to preparing for a play. Every class period, you’re putting on the performance. You’ll have a different audience who will react differently to what you’re saying, even though the material is similar. But then there are also the interruptions. The student who can’t keep quiet is like the person in the audience who refuses to turn off their cell phone. The student who can’t sit still is like the person in the audience who has to keep getting up in the middle of the performance to go to the lobby, or the restroom; stepping over several people each time (because they aren’t considerate enough to take an aisle seat).
What I’m navigating is how to deal with the interruptions, and how to also balance the age difference. I teach 6th graders and 8th graders. My 6th graders are a challenge. They are chatty, inquisitive, needy, and energetic. They each require individual attention and care. They each have their own gifts to explore, and they feel awkward- as middle school is an awkward place. I am privileged to get to explore that with them, under the auspices of teaching world history.
My 8th graders are a challenge also. They are incredibly independent, increasingly more confident and sure of themself (yet also needing to be validated), inquisitive, and excited. Like my 6th graders, they also require individual attention and care. They are deciding how they want to be distinct while still remaining similar. I am honored to meet them at this point in their journey of self-discovery, with a guise of teaching them US history. All that said, my philosophy for teaching middle schoolers is quite simple: they don’t care how much I know until they know how much I care.
Although I’m grateful that I’ve made it to the weekend, and I am enjoying the time that I don’t have to be with children, I still have things to do. There are files to be organized, lesson plans to be reviewed, and papers to be graded. I’m always sensitive about my weekends because I feel like they should be refreshing (i.e.: not consumed with work) but productive. My desire to be a good teacher often means working a little (okay, a lot) more than I’d prefer; however, I feel like some of what you don’t have in natural ability can be made up in hard work. Additionally, I feel that if I expect my students to work hard, then I have to model that same behavior to them.
All that said, it’s been a great first week with the students. Only…35 more weeks to go? Something like that :-).
Oh, and if there are any teachers out there that care to share some tips for a first year teacher, feel free to leave your comments. I’d be most appreciative.