First year teachers have it rough. It is a scary year of insurmountable pressure, overwhelming anxiety and failures/lessons to be learned by both teacher and student alike. It can be isolating and exhilarating, terrifying and satisfying. Typically, the first year teacher is hired before school and thus immediately embarks on their new year-long-anxiety-filled reality. Stress nightmares are coupled with dreams of developing engaging lesson plans, creating unique art projects (insert late night Pinterest searches here), culling meaningful social and emotional activities all while organizing, collecting items and meticulously setting up the perfect classroom on little to zero budget (again…Pinterest) consume the mind with endless possibilities and challenges. We teachers are able to do this because we realize we only really have to do it once. You only have one first year teaching. Even if we move or switch schools, though it may be our first year teaching in a new place it will NEVER be our first year teaching again, EVER! Right?
Insert fall 2020…
That could be the end of this post but it is not because I am realizing that we are now ALL first year teachers and we will need to rally together. This year is going to be tough and full of challenges for sure, but as a teacher I know that the magic of teaching might also be found in the most unexpected places.
Together (teachers, students and parents/families) as a collective, we are wading fast, into a deep dark water; a sea that is unknown and may have currents that guide us forward or push us back. There may be creatures that help us along the way or barriers that force us to make hard choices and for sure there will be many things that we have not learned ….yet, that when we look back on we can say, “We did it!” We barely know how to dog-paddle at this point. We did learn some valuable things in the spring but this time we are told that we have to swim successfully and effectively for the unforeseeable future. GACK! The nightmares have started, in fact the nightmares have been constant for most people I know since the closure of school as we knew it back in March.
This will not be the year to shine brighter than others or to try that BIG project you have been putting off trying. This is not the year to take on extra duties and join all the teams. Instead, this is the year to struggle, to overcome, to seek out new ways of learning and teaching, to ask for help and be willing to help those in need, to try new things daily, to be kind, adventurous and present. This is the year that we as teachers buckle down, strap in and hang on tight to one another while simultaneously holding on to our students and families. Because make no mistake we are in this together and we are ALL first year teachers.
Students are going to need to teach themselves some time-management skills like none they have ever had before. They are going to have to teach themselves to ask for what they need from their teachers because Zoom calls are a sad substitute for togetherness and creative discourse. Students are going to have to teach their parents that their struggles and failure, while in the learning process, is sometimes the greatest way to learn the lesson. They are going to have to teach each other that although they are not in class, physically, together that they can still be kind and caring and build lasting relationships with classmates.
Parents and family members are going to have to teach themselves to breathe deeper, pause and breath again. They are going to have to teach themselves to watch and support while their student struggles and experiences discomfort. These opportunities are often where the magic happens and learning is palpable. Failure is an option… in fact failure is often the mother of genius ideas, creations and new ways of thinking. Parents are going to have to teach their children that although school is not what we traditionally have experienced, school will have meaning and joy, opportunities for growth and community. Parents will need to teach themselves to trust the process, trust the student and trust the teacher. School will be different… and different, although uncomfortable, can teach us perseverance, beautifully.
And teachers… we are going to need to teach and practice grace. This is new to everyone, NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO TEACH PERFECTLY IN THESE NEW CIRCUMSTANCES. It matters not how long you have taught, be it one year, twenty-five or none, we are all going to be experiencing first year teaching again. This year will be a lot of work, just like our first year was. It will be filled with anxiety and strife but just like our first year teaching, it will also be filled with joy. We are going to have to teach ourselves to ask hard questions, to be uncomfortable and to learn from our own discomfort. We are going to have to teach more intentionally, more thoughtfully, more supportively, more diversely and more clearly than ever before. We will need to put in different and probably longer hours. We will need to teach ourselves better time management, streamlining of lessons and carefully designed community building and social/emotional learning opportunities for our students, daily. We have the opportunity to learn so much ourselves and yes it is going to be HARD! We are going to have to teach our asses off. But we can do it. I know this because just like every teacher I know that is still teaching, we have done it before. Maybe not like this… remotely, on a computer, without kids in a physical classroom, but make no mistake we have all survived a first year teaching before and we CAN do it again.
We, students, parents/families, and teachers, will all need to rely heavily on supporting one another. We will need to allow for mistakes and lessons learned. We are going to fail, each and everyone one of us, and yet we will rise up and try again. This is what education is all about. And oh boy, is it scary. We will need to teach and learn that although this is hard but, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!
I know that I personally am terrified to not be able to rely on past experience. To have no clue how each lesson will roll out, how students will respond and if I will be effective because I have never taught this way before is the stuff of nightmares. However, the one truth that I know I can count on as we submerge ourselves in this dark uncharted water is… WE ARE ALL FIRST YEAR TEACHERS ON THIS VOYAGE… TOGETHER.