**I started this blog post in June just after my first year of teaching, and summer got so busy that I never finished it. I still want to publish it because everything in it still holds true, and who knows maybe it will help someone.**
June 2016: Greetings and salutations, everyone. I realize it has been awhile since my last post, and this post is going to be a bit different than my previous posts have been. I feel that it’s only right at the end of my first year of teaching and living as an expat to reflect on the experience and maybe mine some nuggets of knowledge for any teachers considering doing the same. Now, if you’ve been with me this whole time, then you know the journey hasn’t always been an easy one..ahem, and by that I mean it has hardly ever been an easy one. Ergo, here are the unapologetic, no-sugar-added tidbits I have to pass on to other first year teachers. Hopefully, you find them helpful in managing your expectations going into your first year or find comfort in them knowing you aren’t alone if you’re halfway through the school year and considering a career change (maybe a desk job wouldn’t be so bad?).
- First of all, no matter how much you think you’ve got it all together, you will eventually realize that you actually have no idea what you’re doing. Maybe it will happen during orientation week or maybe the first day with students. Maybe you will make it even longer than that, but have no doubts, my friend, the realization will strike eventually. Find a person who can talk you down and stroke your ego every once in awhile– a person who believes in you and can help restore your confidence in yourself. If you have that person, hang onto them because you will continue to need them (and don’t forget to do nice things for them because Lord knows, they will deserve it!).
- Second, remember the idyllic classroom that you envisioned during all of your years of training–the perfect students working quietly, the Pinterest inspired classroom decor, the polished lessons that go just the way that you want them to? Honey, no. Do yourself a favor, and put that dream on the shelf for now. In some respects, this year is about survival, and if you’re expecting that much from yourself, you are going to be extremely frustrated and discouraged. Sometimes, your first year consists of a classroom that is quite literally a storage closet with maintenance workers coming in and out six or more times a day, precious few resources, a generation of students who have already gained a reputation during their early childhood years, and training that happens weeks or months after you would have preferred to have it. This is real life, and real life can be messy.
- Third, you will cry. Maybe you hold it in until all the kids are gone and cry at your desk or at home or maybe you melt down in front of your kids (no shade either way teachers are humans too), but it WILL happen.
- Fourth, at a certain point, you will want to scrap the year and skip to the next one and/or start the year over, and do it differently. Obviously, neither of those things are possible, but you CAN start making notes to make your next year easier (and I highly encourage you to do so).
- Fifth, you may hit a point where if you feel like if you have to attend yet another parent meeting (particularly if that meeting includes your bosses…and your bosses’ boss), you will actually start screaming and throwing things. Wine and chocolate, my friend. Wine and chocolate. They were made for times like these, and it’s a good idea to keep a stash of chocolate in your desk drawer (save the wine for when you get home!). Also, see person mentioned in the first point and share said chocolate and wine with them because they deserve it.
- Sixth, whatever you do for the love of all that is holy in this world, DO NOT start your master’s program. Mother of pearl, this should be obvious, but apparently not to this dummy. Give yourself a hot second to adjust to your career choice (because it is a dog eat dog world out there). Save the masters for when you can keep your head above water because starting that process during your first year of teaching is like handing a drowning man a baby. Who would do that?!
- Seventh, you will hit a point where you feel like things are getting better. Brace yourself because in my experience, this is when your kids will act a fool for the next several days to keep your expectations in check. It’s a dance. One step forward, two (or three) steps back.
- Finally, at the end of the year, you will be standing at the gate (door, bus, hall, whatever) watching your last kiddo run off to their summer, and you will feel so many emotions: relief, pride, exhaustion (mostly this), and it will surprise you that the student who put you through the most hell is the student that is hardest to say goodbye to. Even more amazingly, you will find yourself already thinking about the next school year even though logic and any sense of self-preservation would tell you to run while you can.
In conclusion, your first year of teaching may feel like a sick joke (in some ways, it is), but you can and will make it through, and if you feel crazy inferior to all of the amazing teachers you work with, just remember that they also had a first year of teaching, and teachers tend to be a compassionate, helpful bunch so no one is judging. You got this!
September 2016: Year two, it gets better. I promise! We will return to regularly scheduled programming next week.