If only…

My Hemmingway-esque first day speech was all set and I thought I was ready for the vainglorious teenagers to push through my classroom door.  And then I felt the first of several many meltdowns come about.

How in the world do you get through the first week of school without having at least one ten meltdowns?   I know NEXT year will be better because I won’t have to figure out the school, start my classroom from scratch (management, layout and design), figure out a brand new curriculum, AND get to know my students.

Unfortunately, my college semester last fall didn’t start until several weeks AFTER the school for my student teaching placement started.  We were encouraged to go to the school to help our cooperating teacher set up and begin the school year, but I was taking two summer courses and working and, quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered.  I wish I realized then that this was SO important!  At least I would’ve had some sort of idea as to what to expect when setting up my own classroom for the first time.

I mean, in all my training and in all my textbooks they talked about how crucial the first day and first week of school are in setting up the tone and expectations in your classroom- I get that.  I did need to tweak several things by the end of the first week: posting explicit instructions for some of my procedures and rearranging desks (unfortunately, groups of four did NOT work, so I’ll try pairs next week).

I must say I also wasn’t prepared for the gazillion emails containing uber-important information from administration, with very little information as to what actually needed to be done.  The emails were definitely written for the veteran teachers, not the ones who were new to the school.  I wish I had more school-specific training, so that I wasn’t freaking out that every little thing that needed to get done had to get done IMMEDIATELY.  Don’t get me wrong, the administration at my school seems great; the Principal and Assistant Principal are very avuncular, and the other Assistant Principal seems very nice (I haven’t had too much interaction with her yet).  I know they are incredibly busy trying to get the school year off to a great start, just as the rest of us are.

I also wish someone would have told me that I would feel like I was a crazy person for awhile.  I think my husband thinks I’m insane, although he is very supportive just as he had been while I was in school full-time.  I also feel my students think I’m peculiar; I can’t tell you how many times they looked at me as if I just asked them to take the square root of okra.

Nevertheless, I HAVE to push through.  I keep telling myself that things will start being routine and I’ll be able to handle all of the insanity sooner or later.  Any advice all of you inspiring veteran teachers have for me is more than welcome and I promise my next post will be full of inspiration, as well.

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5 thoughts on “If only…

  1. teachertofer says:

    I remember that soul-crushing fear during that first week. My student teaching did encompass the start of the school year, but it didn’t prepare me for all the craziness of the first weeks of school, between extended homerooms that I was sort of expected to know what to do with a group of kids I’d never met for 3 hours, trying to dive right into material in my algebra and geometry classes to different degrees of disaster and freaking out every night, not knowing if I’d made the right choice.

    It does get better. From year to year, but also from week to week, and sometimes even day to day. I don’t know that I’ve stopped feeling like a crazy person six years into my career, or that I ever will–we have three days of professional development this week before our kids come back next week, and I’m already feeling the voices in my head waking up to shout their less than helpful discouragement. Maybe I’ve just learned to ignore them a little better. Know that you can push through too–suddenly it will be second quarter, and then second semester, and you won’t even realize where your year went.

    When I started teaching the best advice I got was concerning the value of maintaining (whenever possible) control over your emotions. Mac (the professor) told me that “You’ve got to be able to pretend that you’re angry when you’re not, and pretend that you’re not angry when you are.” (He also told us fledgling teachers that it was very important to take our jobs seriously and very important to never take ourselves too seriously (which I also hold near and dear to my heart and sanity)). The kids are wonderful, and they’re frustrating, sometimes on purpose, and sometimes, because they’re frustrated too. Hiding the fact that you’re upset sometimes is as much as you can do to maintain some modicum of poise and control until you can figure out a potential solution to the problem.

    Good luck in the coming weeks, and I look forward to reading more about your experiences.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you. I do know that the insanity of teaching will live with me throughout every school year, I guess I’m simply hoping I will be able to tolerate it better than right now. I once saw a quote (probably on Pinterest) stating something along the lines of summer being here and so teachers were returning to normal people. I can definitely see how not-normal us teachers can get during the school year. I am going to save your professor’s words of wisdom for my future worn-out self!

  2. I wish someone had told me to keep better control of my emotions when I was starting out. (Or perhaps they did, but I had to learn that lesson the hard way nonetheless.) I don’t know that I wore my heart on my sleeve all the time, but I did let frustration accumulate inside me until I kind of “blew up” at my students now and again. Not good. Know how to get some of that out of your system. Taking a run in the evening seems to be a favorite of some of the other bloggers I follow on Twitter. For me it’s probably a walk (my knees aren’t what they used to be), with some goes-well-with-anger music on the iPod.

    That said, I would not argue that you should keep your emotional state a secret. In control, yes. Hidden, not necessarily. When I taught middle school back in the day, one year I drew a face in the upper corner of my white board (happy, unhappy, or neutral) to let the kids know how I was feeling about how things were going in class. (Though I would sometimes put up the sad face if I wanted them to know I had something yucky going on outside of the classroom.) Another year I used a 1-to-10 scale for the same purpose, with 10 meaning things were going perfectly. I have a yearbook with a message from a student saying that she hoped I would have lots of 10′s in the future (or something like that). I don’t do this sort of thing anymore, but I think my happiness-meters might have been necessary steps toward greater awareness (and thereby control) of my emotions in front of the class.

    The big test come either right after Columbine or on 9/11 (I can’t remember which), when a student asked me how I could possibly not be sad. I responded that I absolutely was, but that I had responsibilities as a teacher that didn’t let me break down in front of the class. I told her that I would grieve later on, when I wasn’t in charge of a group of students. She was duly impressed (which is probably the only reason why I remember that exchange).

    I don’t know if this even falls under the category of “advice”, but I hope it is helpful in one way or another.

    On a slightly related note, young teachers make mistakes. Old teachers also make mistakes, hopefully less often. Don’t be afraid to be self-critical, but try not to take it personally. You’re only trying to help you become a better teacher, right?

  3. [...] named The Education of Future Math Ninjas. The second post for the Blogging Initiation is titled If only… and the author sums it up as follows: This post is about several things I wish I knew before the [...]

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