Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Memoirs of a First Year Teacher

There is one big reason why I am writing this blog post.  Here it is.

When I was completing my undergraduate studies at BYU-Hawai'i, I had a professor by the name of Dr. Buckner who frequently told us that most people who end up burning out and quitting the teaching profession do so around 3 years.  That's the point when they struggled, they stuck it out, and after sticking it out, they realize that teaching is not what they want to do for the rest of their lives. It's probably related to the whole idea of being "overworked and underpaid."  I am now halfway through those 3 years, so I wanted to write down my feelings of this past year.  I don't want to finish my 3rd or 5th or 10th or even 15th year teaching completely removed from these feelings. I want to remind myself of why I chose this profession and why I stay in this profession.  Who knows, maybe the Lord will show me a different path of passion to pursue, but I don't want to ever feel like quitting simply because I have a negative perspective of it and I get tired of it.

I gotta say, I feel really really blessed.  Don't get me wrong, this school year, my first full year as an employed teacher was SO HARD.  I transitioned from 5th to 4th grade, so I had to learn an entirely new curriculum and teach it at the same time.  There were many times in the beginning where I would teach something not having a deep understanding and knowledge of it.  So then I would have to go back and re-teach so that my students could have a deep understanding of the concepts.  I would get to school between 6-6:30, and sometimes stay until 5:30-6.  The days were long, the list of things to do was long, it was draining physically, mentally, and emotionally.  But overall, I felt it was a successful first year.  I know it's because I had a strong support system.

Towards the end of the year, I got really comfortable.  I felt that I knew the curriculum so much better, I worked cohesively with my 4th grade team, and I knew my students individually. I knew their talents, their needs, and their personalities.  I thought to myself, "I'm totally gonna ace this next year."  I was letting myself plateau.  And then Heavenly Father basically said, alright, now that I've got you here, you're ready for the greater plans I have for you.  Which makes sense, because this life is all about progression; it is the reason for our trials and hardships.  This is when everything changed on me again.

In the same week, I received the following pieces of news:

1) I was NOT pregnant, contrary to what I believed due to confirmation that the fertility medication (Clomid) that I took had worked, and I ovulated. I had all these symptoms and was sure I was pregnant. Nope, PMS symptoms again. That was a huge disappointment as I thought my 3 year infertility journey would finally come to an end.

2) My principal notified me that he would like my class to be inclusion next year, meaning I would have some students with special needs spending part of the day in my room. This worried me because I have no idea what to do for students with special needs.

3) After some discussion, my grade level decided that I should be the Grade Level Chair (GLC for short...education has so many acronyms for everything...) for fourth grade next year.  So I would be carrying more responsibility than I did this year. Remember, this will only be my second year teaching. And I'm supposed to LEAD other teachers with more experience than me? AHHHH! I. Feel. So. Inadequate. But I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so I accepted.

4) I found out I would be moving classrooms, next to a 5th grade classroom. This worried me as well, because I relied so much on my neighbor Mrs. Arakawa (GLC this year) everyday to make sure I was on track. I was banking on staying next to her again for next year.

I was doubting myself on so many levels, but today I had a few realizations/epiphanies.  One is that, I know that the support staff did not take class and teacher placements lightly, they spent a long time debating and going over the class lists and placements over and over again before making any final decisions. Which means that they took everything that I mentioned being worried about into consideration, and yet they still believe I can do it. So I should believe in myself.

I also realized that I chose this profession because I was passionate about kids. I wasn't really passionate about education per se.  However, I realized this year that education is empowering.  If I'm passionate about children, I need to also be passionate about education because that is what will provide them with the best possible future life.

Surprisingly, I did not cry today when I was saying goodbye to my kids. I've spent the last 10 months thinking about them constantly, how I could help them more or make them happier (for those who had struggles at home).  Suddenly, they are not mine anymore.  I feel like my life lacks purpose now, and I am so sad about that.  But students will come and go. However, I hope some things I taught them and the memories we made this year will stay with them forever. I know they have made a lasting impression on me.  The student that I considered to be my most difficult ended up being the one I had the hardest time letting go, as I got so attached to this student in the end.  When this student made huge progress and even got ME's on their last few standardized tests, I never felt prouder.  I saw my student's attitude about school completely change from being boring and invaluable, to being a priority and enjoyment in this student's life.  I will never forget these kids. I never knew I could have this much love in my heart for kids who were not my own children.  But, I like to think that this is what it feels like to be a mom.

This chapter of my career is closing, but a new one will begin again soon!  In the meantime, I and my awesome 4th grade team are going to enjoy our summer. :)