Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So this is what teaching is supposed to be like...

I've just finished my fifth day of school, and while it's frequently frustrating and continually exhausting, it's also rewarding and somewhat fun. This year is better in more ways than I can describe. First, I know how to watch twenty eight people while simultaneously presenting academic content. That's huge; situational awareness is absolutely crucial to good teaching, but it sure wasn't instinctual for me. Second, the new head principal seems both sane and determined to set a good tone for the year, firm but friendly. Third, this years ninth graders just aren't as insane as last years. It might be the honeymoon period, but last year there was no honeymoon.

Then, there's the more personal stuff that doesn't apply to all new teachers: this year I was actually ready to meet students, work with them, and start building relationships. This year I think I looked and sounded like a teacher on day one. Last year on day one I looked and sounded like someone who'd found out the day before that someone she loved deeply had committed suicide. I wasn't a functional human being at that point. I'm not sure I ever really will be again, but as time goes on I'm getting better at faking it.

I don't pretend that I've mastered teaching (I'm still a million miles away from being the teacher my kids really need.), but I have the sense that I am gradually getting a little bit better and seeing those gains reflected in my classes. I wouldn't have made it to this point without a lot of help. Without veteran teachers like the absolutely amazing Tea with Buzz and my favorite junior high school math teacher to offer suggestions, encouragement, and a safe space to vent, I probably would have quit before Christmas. Without the physics professor who called to check in every couple of days during the impossible first weeks when simply getting out of bed and talking to people seemed like more than I could take on, I'm not sure I'd be here to write this. Many other teachers in my building, TFA and non-TFA alike, played integral roles in helping me make it through. So I'm back for the second year, ready to try to make more meaningful gains with my students, plus try to help a whole slew of first years keep sanity and perspective so they can do the same.

I'm looking forward to seeing what this year will bring.