Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Why I See Teaching Differently Now


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

The first morning after break, my students sheepishly peeked their heads into the classroom and gave me a shy wave. They made at least one aimless circle around the room before remembering where and when to hang their backpacks.

After they found their seats, and with some gentle prompting, they began writing about their holiday break. Twenty minutes of glorious silence passed as they embarked on their assignment. I peaked over their shoulders to see the silence was mostly due to extreme concentration in remembering how to write a complete sentence after two weeks away. I saw plenty of incoherent words, and understood what I would be up against this week.

Like all good things, the quiet time came to an end. As I lined them up for a bathroom break, the catching up began. I thought,“There are the chatty, energetic students I sent off in December!”

As the first day back unfolded, I sensed a difference in myself. It was the same old challenges with organization, management, and 6-year olds, however two weeks of refreshment left me brimming with a new confidence. I know now what I was capable of, and exactly what I was up against.

More: Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Finally, I’m Out of Survival Mode

In addition to their excited chatter, my students also brimmed with confidence and growth. Once they remembered where they were, and how to write a complete sentence, I realized that somehow most of my students came back from break even smarter then when they left. A child's brains is really an incredible sponge for knowledge.

Over half my class progressed in reading levels, and all of them were able to sit and write independently for thirty minutes for the first time. Rest is good for the brain and the soul.

With our confidence high and completion of the year in sight, we are ready to tackle our second semester. We’ve got just as much road ahead of us as we have behind, but there's a spring in our step knowing we are halfway through the year.

Today, I'm no longer seeking perfection in my students or myself. I’m still an inexperienced teacher with a group of crazy, and often difficult, students—but I no longer see either reality as an obstacle. We’ve made it this far on imperfection, why change who we are now? I'm certain we’ll make it to the finish line through investment and a lot of hard work.

Related Stories on TakePart:

Diary of a First-Year Teacher: An Experiment in Teaching Compassion

Op-Ed: For First-Year Teachers, It’s Sink or Swim

Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Tears, Tantrums, and a Little Improvisation