it’s natural for a first year (even second or third year) teacher to hold onto the ideas and theories he or she was taught in college. for four years, you are force fed tons of thoughts and expected to use all of them. in reality, you must pick and choose which ones will work for you. and then after time has gone by and you have built up some experience, you can form your own ideas.
my student teaching went surprisingly well. i didn’t agree with a thing my cooperating teacher was talking about (she was old school, me new school). but she talked to me constantly. she listened. she gave me her copy machine code and told me to literally copy every paper she had for world geography, the subject she taught. she opened me up to geography, something i had pushed aside in college as lower on the list from history and government. the more i learned, the more i loved it. i’ve been teaching that subject (among others) for six years now and it is by far my favorite of the social studies.
since i did my student teaching during the fall semester instead of the traditional spring semester, i had some time to kill. a long-term sub position opened up at the freshman high school in the district i had done my student teaching. let’s just say, i didn’t have a clue about teaching a class by myself. luckily, the teacher was super organized and had made excellent plans. i learned so much by simply being in her classroom. you could just tell she was a great teacher. a teacher i knew from the high school took me under his wing and told me the best advice – beg, borrow and steal your way into your first teaching assignment. so i did. i talked to everyone, wrote down ideas, and just absorbed everything. again, people were generous with their copy codes and allowed me to throw together a pretty good collection of world history materials. by the time i had my own classroom a few months later, i felt like – “i got this.”
i definitely did not.
i know that what i started with that first year is not what i use in my classroom every day. i’m “type A”. i freely admit that. and i know now that it handicapped me in the beginning. i never let anything go. i worked way too hard at being what i thought was a good teacher. i wanted to be the teacher that stands up at the front of a class full of quiet students pouring wisdom into their open minds.
that is not what happened. the first year was hell. i’m not going to lie. i had little to no support from my principals and no mentor. i didn’t even know i was supposed to have one! it wasn’t all terrible though. and i learned so much. those kids took me through teaching boot camp. the experience was difficult, but the lessons were learned.
i’m know other people have different experiences than i did. some teachers have wonderful first years with someone checking in on them periodically. some teachers do it alone.
my hope is that new teachers ask for help. but i also hope that the more experienced teachers reach out and flood those new teachers with support and encouragement.