Twas the night before the first day of school,
and all through the school,
one teacher was worrying,
would fourth grade be cool?
Okay okay, I’ll stop, but when I get nervous, for some reason, I like to make parodies of songs and poems. Seriously, though, last year I wrote a great bus duty song based on the song “Dancing in the Moonlight” that I sang over the loud speaker at the end of the day because I was nervous about an evaluation meeting I had with my principal. It was called “Dancing in the Bus Line.” It was awesome.
I completely digress, though. It’s the night before the start of my sixth year of teaching, and I’m nervous. My first five years of teaching were all spent in 1st grade, and now I’m moving on up to fourth grade. I was at the point that I could literally name all of the first grade reading and math Common Core standards from memory. Now I know nothing, and it’s scary. I keep telling myself, though, that I’m a good teacher and I’m reflecting on the major things I learned from each of my years as a teacher.
So here we go: My reflections from each of my years as a teacher.
Year 1: You Can’t Do Everything
My first year as a teacher I literally had 2 parents ask me where the teacher was when they came for Open House / Meet the Teacher Night. I was 25 and looked like I was 18, so I felt a lot of pressure to prove myself. I worked my butt off, and did everything I could to do what I thought a good teacher did.
I learned quickly, though, that I literally knew nothing. That was okay, though! It’s okay to be a learner. My students actually appreciated it when I told them that I was doing something for the first time or didn’t know how to do something. We problem solved a lot that year, and I think that made my kids and I even better.
Year 2: Be You
My first year as a teacher, I didn’t really share a lot about my personal life at all. I just thought that I shouldn’t really share a lot. I wasn’t the stereotypical teacher: married, kids, pets, book club. I was a single guy who did kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu in his free time and drove for 3 hours north to go see my future wife in college every weekend. Why would my students want to hear about my personal life?
You know what, though, they really did! The more that I shared about myself, the greater the connection I had with my students. We had jokes about my love for pizza or flip flops, and that helped me create relationships that that group really needed.
I had a tough group that year: 28 students, 1 with an IEP, and 4 more who got IEPs later on in their school career. Despite it being a tough group, though, I was able to do a LOT. It was all thanks to the connections I was able to make by simply sharing a little about my life with my kids.
Year 3: Parents Make ALL the Difference
My third year, I finally was coming into my own and really putting my mark on first grade. I wrote a lot of curriculum for my school district that year. I had mastered the first grade content and was really perfecting what I had learned in my first two years.
That year, though, was the year that I really harnessed the power of parents. Up until then, I never had any parent volunteers for my classroom except for field trips.
That year, I recruited parent volunteers for reading and math. It was CRAZY. Having parents in the room meant I had one more adult running a group and one more adult with eyes on students. My kids moved up in reading and math SO much quicker that year.
I also recruited a room mom to plan my classroom parties and celebrations. Up until then, I had done the planning for parties, and it was A LOT. My classroom mom was awesome. She organized volunteers for food and help at parties. Most of all, though, she took a lot of stress off my shoulders.
Year 4: I Don’t Know Everything
I went into this year flying high. I was a first grade rockstar as far as I was concerned. I was teaching professional development classes and really pioneering some cutting edge stuff with technology in my classroom.
Just when I thought I was ready for the best year ever, school started. This group really put me through my paces. Things that had worked before, didn’t work. I found myself asking around for ideas from my colleagues and coaches.
I never quite got a firm grasp on anything that definitively worked for that group for any period of time. This group definitely taught me that I still had a lot to learn.
Year 5: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
This was last year, and my enthusiasm was curbed. After my group from my fourth year, I was ready for anything and boy did I get some tough cases.
Up until that year, I was the only bilingual first grade teacher, but this year I had my first teaching partner. It was awesome! She had been my teaching assistant for two years, so we already knew that we worked well together.
I was also the new teacher mentor. I was mentoring 5 teachers and 2 of them had worked with me as my teaching assistant previously.
Even though I was mentoring new teachers, though, I had a tough year. Having relationships with all of those new teachers really helped me a lot. I collaborated on projects with my mentees that got our classes working together, and really engaged my tough group. Our classes benefited a lot from the collaboration and feeling of responsibility that they had working with another class.
Heading into Year 6
This is my first year teaching fourth grade. I still don’t know most of the standards or even how to teach some of the things that I’m teaching. This is going to be a big year of growth for me. I’ve had this group before, so having some relationships with the students and families already is really going to help set me up for success.
I don’t know how I’m going to like fourth grade, but this is going to be a great adventure.
I’ll leave you now with two of my personal mantras:
On to the next challenge!
“If you believe and you work, you can do it.” – Diego Pablo “Cholo” Simeone
What are you thinking this school year? Let me know in the comments.
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