Most experienced teachers look back on their first year of teaching with a mixture of nostalgia and horror. In order to make it through that first year in any sort of sane manner teachers must approach it with a certain mixture of idealism, stubbornness, ignorance, and masochism. That is not to say teaching isn’t worthwhile or is unbearable, but first-year teaching involves the normal workload of papers to grade and lessons to prepare, all while also trying to design and write every lesson (possibly from scratch), create curriculum, convince a room full of students that you know what you are doing and should be listened to, as well as figure out your own style and could often be described as a marathon of sheer insanity.
With this in mind, I offer three pieces of advice to all you newbies out there. And if you are not new to the classroom, these don’t hurt to occasionally remind yourself of either.
There will always be more than you can do. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it all.
There are only twenty-four hours in the day and on a somewhat regular basis you need to sleep for at least six of them. You maybe have a family, a spouse, children, a dog who also need your attention. For your own mental health you need to occasionally get together with friends, go out to dinner, take a walk. Don’t feel badly or guilty when you need to take a break from the endless pile of papers to grade and lessons to plan. It is fully reasonable that every moment of every day and even weekends is not spent at your desk. Consider ways to make the paper load less (occasionally give completion grades or consider having students grade their own daily work, etc.), look to other sources for help developing lessons (your fellow teachers and Teachers Pay Teachers are great resources here), and even occasionally have a silent reading or educational movie day to give yourself a chance to catch up on a bit of work. These are all reasonable and healthy things to do. Remember that even the most dedicated and hardcore of teachers can burnout. Set healthy expectations for yourself, and give yourself the grace to not have to do everything.
You probably won’t be John Keating, but that doesn’t mean you won’t impact lives.
I am fairly certain that there isn’t an aspiring English teacher out there that hasn’t watched Dead Poets Society (if you haven’t seen it, pick it up tonight!) and thought, “That is the kind of teacher I am going to be!” But when it comes right down to it, just like romance and road trips and even death, teaching is not quite the same in real life as it is in the movies. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t impact lives. Sometimes your impact is obvious as you watch a student come out of their shell during class discussions over the course of the year with your gentle encouragement. Sometimes you will find out years later when a parent or former student makes a comment during a chance meeting at the grocery store. Sometimes you will never know. But do know that a strong teacher who teaches their curriculum with both passion and compassion does change lives regardless of how many Hollywood movies they inspire or how often their students stand on their desks.
You will have great days, but you will have bad days too. We all do.
Some days your students just push your buttons. You will get that class with the group of mean girls or class clown or kid who just won’t sit down and quit talking. You will occasionally spend hours on a perfect lesson only to have it all fall apart when you go to implement it. It’s okay. Even the most experienced teacher occasionally looses her temper and yells or has a terrible lesson or catches the flu and is miserable. Don’t let a bad day stop you. You are strong, you are awesome, but remember, you are human too. Tomorrow is a new day. Take a deep breath; you can make it!
Got tips for the newbie or the veteran teacher out there? Share in the comments section below!
Have a great day, and…
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This Week’s Journal Questions
For the teacher: How do you recover from a bad day?
For the student: What is your favorite movie? Why do you like it so much?
A Recipe from My Kitchen
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 eggs, separated
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 cups zucchini, shredded
- Hint: Shred and freeze zucchini in 1 cup portions during zucchini season. Then you can pull it out of the freezer, thaw it, and use it to make things like these pancakes or zucchini bread all year long.
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- In a large bowl whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and walnuts. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks, honey, zucchini, and butter. Set aside.
- In a third bowl beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
- Heat your griddle (if it is not nonstick, oil it so pancakes won’t stick) and preheat your oven to 200º.
- When your griddle is ready, stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until well combined, and then gently fold in the beaten egg whites.
- Cook pancakes in the desired sizes (I like 1/3 to 1/2 cup portions myself).
- Place finished pancakes in the warm oven until ready to serve.
- Serve warm with desired toppings. Butter and maple syrup is great. So is yogurt and fresh fruit!