Notes for a First-Year Teacher

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dear first-year teacher

Dear first-year teacher,

Welcome to the profession. I know it’s been a few weeks since you officially started, but I was too busy getting my kids (and myself) ready for the school year to get this post finished sooner.

During this whirlwind, I saw you setting up. You turned the key in your new classroom door as soon as you were allowed in the building. You walked around the space and immediately began planning. You brought in boxes of books, decorations, and supplies (you spent far more than you should have). You started unloading, shelving, and decorating.

You stopped to talk to some colleagues and welcome some curious/ zealous parents and students. You sat down to take a sip of what had once been iced coffee, but was now more like coffee water. You looked around and realized you wanted to rearrange the furniture. You began again. You stayed until the school was locked up.

Dear first-year teacher,

I am in awe of you. Entering the profession now, when there’s so much more expected of you.

You need to be a technology master, using screens to advance learning and communication, all the while knowing how addictive technology can be, for adults and children alike. You’ve read about the helicopter turned snowplow parents. You want to remotely share your engaging and authentic lessons and show how hard the students are working, but you don’t want to invite constant contact. There you are, in your classroom and at home, wondering how much electronic involvement is just right.

You’re entering the profession during a time when mindfulness and reducing homework are hot topics. But standardized tests are still the law of the land. Schools are still ranked based upon how well students perform. There you are, trying to not stress about how to accomplish it all. How to make everyone feel at ease and still help your school earn top marks.

I could go on and on about the many different directions you’re pulled in by the ever-growing expectations (often at odds with each other), but you’ve heard about teacher burnout, and that’s not why I’m writing.

Dear first-year teacher,

I’m writing because I feel you. Not as a teacher who remembers my own first year 15 Septembers ago. Things were much easier for me back then. I feel you, as a mama. I feel you, remembering what it’s like to be a first-time mama.

The loneliness. There you are in your classroom, feeling protected and comfortable. You don’t (and often can’t) get out as often as you should.

Making new friends. It’s hard to have real conversations when you have so many other things to do.

The exhaustion and exhilaration. You don’t get enough sleep, but each day, the children say or do something that fuels your soul.

The flurry of outside opinions. There’s just so much “advice” that you are given. The classes you took. The books you read. The websites you visited. Comments voiced by “experts” in the field to random people who believe they know what’s “best” for children. There you are, trying to figure out what to dismiss, value, and apply.

Dear first-year teacher,

I’ve got your back, because I’m a mama. I know you’re trying as hard as you can. I know you’re constantly adapting what you envisioned for the first set of children you were given. I know they’re helping you fall in love with the profession you chose.

Dear first-year teacher,

Your presence in my child’s life is refreshing. Please hold onto that knowledge for the rest of your career.

Sincerely, 

An Understanding Mama

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