To the first-year teacher…

It’s 6:00 a.m. and the morning alarm rings.

You never used to wake up this early and was this excited during college. But this morning, this specific morning, you are more excited than ever before.

You thought out what you are going to wear the night before, making sure it is hung up in the closet, perfected, like you were trying to impress someone.

You’re a morning shower-er, so you start the water at the perfect temperature, step in, and begin your morning thoughts (like every normal human being does) about all the things you’re looking forward to today: unlocking your door for the first time, putting your name on the board, turning on your computer, setting up your desk, and waiting for that special being to walk through your door.

After you step out of the shower and begin your morning routine, you remember the journey you went through to get here, the college classes you took to prepare, the state tests you took to be certified, and the internship (student teaching) you endured to learn practical field training.

It all prepared you for this moment.

Your lunch is ready and out the door you go. As you begin your route to your first professional job, a special journey that will take you on the greatest highs and lowest lows, you become anxious – what if they don’t like me? What if I mess up? What if I get in trouble, on the first day?!

Even veterans still think that way. I still think that way. (Funny story, I got in trouble the first day.)

You drive up to the schoolhouse, park, and pause. This is what you’ve worked so hard for – to be a teacher, our society’s most respected, yet undervalued profession.

Did you do the right thing, especially after what has happened in the past four months?

Yes, you did! And if there is a time that you are needed, now is that time more than ever before.

Who would’ve thought that your first year in your post-college job would have been earned during a global pandemic, where jobs are being lost left and right and the world is seemingly changing every day? When the future looks so bleak for so many, there has to be a sense of relief that sets in, not only knowing that you won’t have to worry about paying your bills, but you’ll be making more money than you probably ever thought of when you were in college, yet nowhere near the money that you’ll end up deserving.

As you become a leader on your campus, one of the ways that you will surely be needed is to assist in the devastating technological divide that has inadvertently revealed itself during this crisis – how are we going to use the technological platforms at our disposal, that may seem foreign to veteran teachers, but are the norm for you and the students that you’ll be educating?

How are we going to transform education for the 21st-century learner?

You will be a part of that.

Keep in mind, some teachers don’t know the difference between reply and reply all. (For the love of God, I will never understand that.) So, if you can educate those colleagues about something new while teaching your students about something new, then you’re already doing something right.

As a veteran teacher about to enter his first decade in education, here are some things to think about:

– A student will not learn from a teacher they don’t like. Relational development is the key to classroom management, not your rules.
– This is your job. This is not your life. Your family and friends, and your weekends away, will keep you grounded. You’ll burn out quickly if you do too much.
– Learn to say no. The new teacher tends to be the scapegoat.
– Pick your battles to fight. Some things will not make sense. Roll with them. Don’t buck the system too early.
– Make a friend. You’ll need a venting friend.
– Find the veteran teacher and pick their brain. As mentioned above, they may not know the difference between reply and reply all, but chances are, they know something meaningful.

In your first couple of years, people will doubt your abilities. Parents will test your patience and question your knowledge and skills, mostly through their perceived keyboard courage. Politicians will pass laws, mostly without the background knowledge of being in the classroom. And maybe, you may even have a President who will question your value in the industry.

They’ll never realize that because of a teacher, they are able to write, read, critically think, draw, compute, dance, photograph, catch, hurdle, annunciate, and/or debate, and many other skills they take for granted.

It all starts with an awesome teacher.

And when you are 10 years in the game, 15 years or 20, 30 or even 40, when that student runs specifically to you in excitement that they got their college acceptance letter, or ask if you saw them run into the end zone at that football game, or even ask for your approval on who they are dating, that feeling never gets old.

They’ll look up to you. They need you. We need you. And they may never admit it. Look out for the little things, because they matter.

If there was a time that people realized the importance of the school system to the everyday function of society, it has been during this pandemic. You are needed. You are wanted. And you are valued. It may not seem like it right now, but you are worthy and respected.

This is a calling. Welcome to education!


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