Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Did I Serve Them Well?


Each week in the series Diary of a First-Year Teacher, an anonymous first-grade teacher will share her confessions, musings, struggles, and successes during the first year of her teaching career in rural Mississippi.

My call and my conviction this year was to make a transformational change in the lives of my students. With three days left of the 2012-2013 school year I am deeply conflicted wondering whether I did that.

I had reflected a lot this year about how much I have grown as a teacher, what I have learned, and how I am a stronger, more capable person from this experience. And although that means ultimately future students will benefit from my growth, what about the fifteen students who sat in my classroom this year? This was their one and only first grade experience. Did I serve them well? Did I give them everything they needed?

On paper, it looks like I did. As a class, my kids grew almost two years in reading, a year and a half in writing, and mastered all first grade math objectives. I am ecstatic about these results and what it means for the young lives I served, and yet I still do not feel like I can truly answer yes to the questions above. I expected that if I saw these numbers in my excel spread sheets that I would be able sleep soundly and say to myself “job well done”. But I know too well that despite those “transformational numbers” there are still children in my class who are not reading on grade level and students who are on grade level but did not grow the way the deserved to as they too often slipped between the cracks. I fear my students too often only received a bare bones education when to really be on par with their peers across the country they deserved to be enriched in ways that I could simply not do this year.



For example, I think of all the gaps in character education they had from my imperfections. They watched me lose it far more than I’d like to admit, allowing my frustration to take control instead of demonstrating the rationality that I try to instill in their developing minds. Of course this is the curse of being a brand new teacher–struggling to learn a new set of skills whilst being relied on by a class of students. It’s understandable, but not excusable.

I expected to be celebrating the completion of the year, ready to take on my second year with the wisdom and experience I so desperately lacked this year. However I am also filled with a deep guilt. A guilt that I could not be everything my kids needed; every time I was not at my best it took away from their experience. Beneath this guilt I know I gave it my all this year, but even at my best I was never superman for them. But I guess a single teacher cannot be superman. The idea of a hero saving the day happen in moments throughout the year, or for a certain few children, but a hero saving the day for all children cannot be accomplished with one teacher. It’s the education system as a whole serving all children the best we can. As educators we will never be perfect and thus the job of education is never over.

Thus, did I give my students everything they needed? The answer is no. We may never be able to do that. But I know with everything that I learned this year I will give next year’s class more, in effort that someday our education system can truly be superman for transforming children’s lives.

Related Stories on TakePart:

• Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Here’s What Happened Before the State Test

• Diary of a First-Year Teacher: I Refuse to Throw in the Towel

• Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Here’s the Most Stressful Part of My Job