Sunday, November 9, 2014

That New Teacher Feeling

Four years ago, I started my first teaching job. I had co-taught for two years... but I was considered the interventionist, and not the "lead teacher." Four years ago, I felt like I was finally a real teacher.

I remember feeling absolutely exhilarated for about 3 seconds, and then absolutely terrified.

There are so many decisions!

Why did no one ever tell me that about teaching?

Sure, someone tells me what to teach, and they may give you resources to use, but ultimately- you, the teacher, has to decide SO many things about how your classroom works.

And for that whole year, it was a matter of slowly figuring things out and getting more and more comfortable with the decisions that were solely mine to make. It was stressful not knowing if they'd be the right decisions, and knowing that no one could tell me for sure what was right for ME as a teacher and for MY KIDS as students.

But the good news?

I had support around me. I had teachers down the hall teaching the same thing who I could bounce ideas off of. I had textbooks and workbooks, and even if I didn't use them for everything, they served as a starting place. I had blogs- and oh, were those blogs valuable for new ideas!

And even better? I was expecting it!

Everyone had told me that the first year would feel like this, but that it would get better as time went on- and by the second year, I would feel so much more at ease.

They were SO right!

It was worse than I expected- but it DID get better, and by that second year in the classroom, even though I switched grade levels, I felt like I was lightyears ahead of that new teacher from the fall before. Sure, I still had a million decisions to make, a thousand things to tweak, and about a billion ways I could improve as a teacher... but I knew so much more about myself as a teacher and what worked for me, and I was so much more confident that I could DO this!

When I moved to follow my husband's job, I ended up with a half-time reading specialist position. By the end of the year, I was teaching Title I kindergarten intervention the other half of the day. My small groups were enjoyable, but I missed having a class of "my" kids and getting to really flex my planning and teaching creativity. I wasn't passionate about my job anymore, and especially with a husband teaching 2nd shift and spending hours home alone each night, it wasn't working for me.

It was less work- by far- but I MISSED loving my job.

This summer, I was so thankful that my principal hired me as a 4th grade science teacher (and I teach one section of social studies too). I was nervous because I didn't think I'd like being departmentalized, but I wanted to be back in the classroom and I didn't want to start over in a new district or new school. (4 schools in 6 years- I'm over moving!)

As I got ready for the year, I knew it wouldn't be easy. I knew that I'd be basically starting over in a new position again- but how hard could it be? I'd taught in the classroom before, and it would be a challenge, but I could handle it.

The good news?

I'm happy to be back in the classroom. Even though it's tons more work- I am much more fulfilled in my job. And teaching mostly science? LOVE. Yes, I miss reading, but I love science and it's fun to have so much time to devote to it (and I still get to incorporate lots of ELA and teach a reading class during our RTI block). Fourth grade has been a great age group, too!

The bad news?

That new teacher feeling.

It's back in a way I never expected, because everything I had figured out when I was first in the classroom... well, most of it doesn't really apply anymore.

I'm departmentalized now. I'm not organizing one class- I'm organizing SIX classes, a total of ~135 kids. I'm not differentiating for a couple of kids in my room- I'm differentiating for somewhere around 25 kids (and I would love to do more). And the number of kids to know, parents to keep in touch with- it's a BIG difference!

I'm not starting with a textbook series and building curriculum around it- I'm starting with standards, a vague district curriculum guide, and lots of links to resources that I still have to dig through and create around.

I'm not surrounded by other teachers that are teaching the same thing as me. While I have an incredibly supportive team, NONE of them are teaching 4th grade science. I'm the only person doing that in my entire school. I'm an island- and even though I've finally found some of the other 4th grade science teachers in the district, it's just not the same as having someone down the hall to take you under their wing.

I knew it would take me some time to get my feet under me this year- but I expected the first month, maybe, to feel like this. Instead, we're past the end of the first quarter and I still kind of feel like I'm drowning.

The last two weeks- once I made it through conferences, my first evaluation, and report cards- have started to feel better... but I'm still totally overwhelmed.

And it feels almost embarrassing to admit this- but at the same time, when I look around my school, EVERYONE seems to feel this overwhelmed. Even the teachers who've been in the game for three times as long as me, even the teachers who've been in the same position for a decade, even teachers who I feel are absolutely PHENOMENAL educators-- they feel like they can't possibly do everything we're being asked to do.

So I'm telling myself it's got to be okay. If they are this overwhelmed too... then maybe it's okay.

That does mean I'm not really blogging. I'm not creating for TpT. My hobbies are taking a backseat.

I'm treading water, and that's about it right now.

And hopefully soon, I can do more than that- because I've got about a million ideas and I really, really love blogging and creating- but in the meantime, I've got to get my feet under me so I can spend more of my weekends with these two:

So... if you've got that new teacher feeling, don't feel bad. You're not alone- even if you're not really a new teacher anymore.

We'll get there eventually... right?

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