This week my Facebook account has been inundated by the recent NPR article “Hey, New Teachers, It’s Okay to Cry in Your Car“. Many of my teacher friends have been responding to the article’s message – that October and November are notoriously hard for new teachers to get through and that an astounding one in ten teachers don’t make it through their first year. There has been such an overwhelming response to the article that NPR posted up a follow up article including teachers’ reactions titled “ Teachers Respond: Veteran Teachers Cry in Their Cars, Too.”
Reading both articles and my friends’ response to them has got me thinking about my first year of teaching. I began my teaching career as a Teach for America teacher with six weeks of teacher training under my belt. I was thrust into a low achieving school with limited resources just two days before the start of the school year. If I had to pick one word to describe my situation it would have been clueless. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and had very little support within my building. I recall walking into a classroom of 33 students with what in retrospect must have been big deer in the headlight eyes. I would love to sit here and tell you that I fooled the students into thinking I was a seasoned professional teacher but sadly my students saw right through me and they ate me alive!
The Spanish teacher I replaced from the year before had quit within two weeks of starting, so my students were convinced that I too would quit within two weeks. They would often shout this at me whenever I would try to assert any authority over my students. In essence my classroom was chaos. Things did eventually settle down once students realized I wasn’t going anywhere but there were most definitely tears. I honestly don’t know how I survived those first weeks other that relying on my own stubbornness. I also did have the support of a few awesome teachers, the Teach for America organization, and of course my family.
To say that the tears stopped after my first year teaching would be untrue. There are still instances in my practice that move me to tears, though not nearly as often. Just know that if you are teaching you are making a difference and the troubling times will pass, though it may not seem like it. My advice is to find a mentor teacher to guide you through difficult times. Also, make sure to take care of yourself – work out, sleep, eat well. It is amazing how these simple acts can make us feel worlds better.
Teaching is hard. Really hard! Know that you are doing great things even when it doesn’t fee like it.
When in doubt go online for some teacher inspiration. Check out the video below for a boost.