I’m having a reflective evening. Here’s something I just wrote out on my balcony:
Here I am. I’m okay. I am a survivor. I go to work every day with a smile on my face and hope for the children I teach. Lord, it is HARD. Yes, I am in first grade now. Yes, I am the third teacher for these children. Yes, I’m coming in at the end of the school year–a.k.a crunch time. Yes, I find myself feeling stress bearing down on me often. But I am surviving. My alarm wakes me up at the crack of dawn each day. I stumble out of bed, make my tea, put on my teacher’s suit of armor and extra warm heart, and go to work ready to face another day. I’m not asking these children to love me with all their hearts. I know these transitions have been terribly hard on them. I know many of them do not trust me completely. That’s okay. I try my best every day to see the best in every child. And let me tell you, that’s not always easy in this class. There are tough kids. But I am persistant.
I am constantly reflecting on my practice, my behavior management routines, the tone I am setting in the classroom. I am always open to advice. I have actively sought out the guidance of my teaching assistant, the reading specialist, the special education teacher, and the other teachers on my grade level, just to name a few. Whenever I feel like I’m falling, a large soft hammock of support floats up to catch me. I am so lucky to be working in such a collaborative, accommodating, and caring environment.
Day in and day out, my goal is to make a child smile, feel good about her work, use kind words with a friend, feel inspired by a book he’s reading. I yearn for student engagement, for revelations, for excitement about learning. I try to foster a caring and empathetic classroom community. That is hard to do as the third teacher. The children feel jarred, rattled.
I can’t imagine if my own first grade teacher had left and I had been left to face not one, but two different teachers. First grade was a vulnerable year for me, one in which I was consumed by irrational fears. It was my first grade teacher’s keen sensitivity and empathy that led her to recommend a wonderful child psychologist to my parents who helped me tremendously. My first grade teacher looked and acted like my own real life fairy godmother.
Now I think of these students who I have under my careful watch now. I know some of them have rough home lives. I realize that school is often one of the only consistant things many kids can count on. And yet, it has not been that way for these children this year. I feel for them with all my heart.
I hope we can finish this year together feeling like we’ve all grown. I know I will. This job has been the best preparation for my official first year of teaching that I could ever ask for. But more importantly, I hope the kids get something out of this as well. Sure, they’ll finish the year an inch or two taller, and with fewer baby teeth. But they’ll also have been through the unique process of adapting to change–something that is difficult at any age but especially at the tender ages of six and seven.
I don’t expect these kids to remember my name in 10 years. But I hope they remember that they are special. That they have never been forgotten.