Chapter 2: The First Month of School
I can’t believe that a month of the school year is already over. It seems like the weeks are just flying by (even if some days drag on). Every day in my classroom is a new adventure. I feel like I get to the end of every day and think, “well, that’s definitely something I will do differently tomorrow.” I know that I am already a different teacher than when I started. I feel like I have had such an opportunity to grow. One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that teaching is a collaborative art. I never have to do anything alone. My team is always helping each other and working together to meet the needs of all of our students. Every member of our third grade team is so different. We all have different backgrounds, different strengths and different experience levels; I think that’s why we work so well together. We have a common goal of helping every one of our students succeed and we do whatever it takes to make that happen.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feelings I had the day before school started. I spent the day attending to all the last minute preparations before 5:00pm when the parents and students would come. I had done really well up until that point and felt more on top of things than I expected. I found out at noon that a new student had been added to my class and he didn’t speak any English. All of a sudden my cool front broke down. I started to realize all the areas that I was not prepared for and I felt totally inadequate. The next few hours were stressful as I added one more of everything to our classroom and tried to think of anything I had missed. I was extremely nervous as everything suddenly became very real. I wasn’t playing pretend anymore—in just a few hours I would have real students. A real school year would begin and I was really in charge of their education. No pressure!
I took a few deep breaths as I waited for my students to come. What would the parents think of me? Would the students be excited or as nervous as I was? The minute the first student walked through the door with her parents, my fears melted away instantly. I was filled with so much love for this child that I had only known for a few seconds. The feeling only grew as more and more students came. I knew that I was definitely in the right place.
It’s been amazing to get to know each of the students individually. They all have such different needs and it’s an interesting challenge trying to figure out how to help each one. Collectively, they are so full of life and personality; they keep me on my toes every minute of every day. Their zeal for life is exciting and exhausting. We have worked hard to learn good classroom habits, although we sometimes have to practice them daily so we don’t forget them.
This first month has been a roller coaster ride. Things in my own classroom are more amazing than I could have ever imagined, and also a hundred times harder than I could have expected. At the end of every day I feel exhausted, but every day gets a little bit easier. There are fewer tears now than there were the first few weeks. I don’t leave school quite as late as I used to, although I never can leave right at the end of the workday. And even on those days when I wonder if I’m really cut out to be a teacher, I can always find some small moment that reminds me that its worth it.
I had one particularly rough day and seriously wondered if I was really reaching any student in my class. That day as the students were leaving, one handed me a note on a folded piece of scratch paper. It read,
“Dear Miss Carlile, I love you and you are also the best teacher ever and I like are class pet [tarantula] fuzzy. I like it when we get to feed fuzzy and when we do math because we play fun math games! And I wish you were my mom cuse you are so fun and asome that’s why! You Rock!”
Sometimes it’s the little things that get me through to the next day.