My First Year vs. My Fifth Year


I’ve been teaching for five years now. Five! This is pretty impressive for someone who almost drowned in a sea of her own tears her first year. I remember one Sunday around October of Year One, I was so despondent and full of agony that my roommate just sat there while I talked, staring at me like this:

But I’ve made it! Way fewer people stare at me like that now.

In many ways, I can’t believe it’s been five years. So much of this teaching gig feels so new, and I still find myself making rookie mistakes. But then in other ways, when I think about the teacher I was my first year, the difference is so stark that I wonder if she was actually a different person and I’ve simply been body-snatched.

This is what I mean.

My First YearMy Fifth Year
I can’t believe that teacher down the hall yells at students to stop running. That’s so mean! It’s just running… they’re kids!IT IS MY LIFE’S MISSION TO ELIMINATE HALLWAY RUNNING.
“You forgot your homework again? That’s okay. Whenever you can bring it is fine!” “You forgot your homework again? That’s okay. You can complete it during lunch with me while I eat tuna and blast my Alanis Morisette Pandora station.”
I’m going to make 95 cupcakes for
every month to celebrate students’ birthdays!
I’m going to use running high-fives to celebrate students’ birthdays!
I can’t believe the principal is making us use this reading strategy he created. There’s no data behind it, he created it by himself, and he’s never even taught reading! Oh, well. Time to redo this month’s lesson plans to fit it in and abandon my more effective, research-based
I will put up the reading strategy poster in my room and when an administrator comes in my room, I will point to it and say, “Make sure you use this strategy, kids!” And that is all.
I’m going to buy ALL THE DECORATIONS EVER!I’m going to laminate the heck out
of every poster I own so I will
never buy decorations again!
Storage? Not a priority. Yes, sorry, I do need all forty large Rubbermaid tubs I have.
Teaching supply
stores are the best!
Teaching supply stores make my paychecks disappear!
50% of my students failed this assignment? My students are so behind!50% of my students failed this assignment? Yikes, let’s look at how I taught this. What can I do differently when I reteach it? And can it involve Oreos?
Look how clean my car is!Look at:
-the layer of coffee sludge that has formed on the cupholder of my console
-the 18 Tupperware containers littering my backseat
-the random school stuff that has been in my car for months that I’m hoping will magically put itself away?
I can’t believe that news story with the teacher who was caught with wine in a traveler tumbler at work!I can absolutely believe that news story about the teacher who was caught with wine in a travel tumbler at work*
“Oh, I don’t need any construction paper, thanks. We won’t be using it anytime soon.”“Sure, I’ll take that construction paper. We won’t be using it anytime soon, but let me place it in my Hoarding Closet.”
This is really, really, really hard.This is really, really, really hard. But also really, really, really great.
I will change these kids’ lives! It’s up to me to be the superhero!This is not about me. I’m not here to be recognized, but to stand beside others as they figure out what is recognizable about them and how to use that for good.
I only need one stapler in my classroom.I need six staplers in my classroom at all times.
I CAN’T WAIT FOR SUMMER.I’m really going to miss these kids! But also, I CAN’T WAIT FOR SUMMER.
I’m going to wear the cutest teacher clothes ever!Oh, orthopedic shoes. Mama loves you.

In general, I think the changes have been mostly positive. I’ve never been one to think that teachers must develop this tough exterior or succumb to being jaded and cranky (though I have felt those ways, to be sure).

Teaching has made me stronger. Not in a stomp-around-“I’m-in-charge” kind of way, but in a quieter way.

I’ve also learned how to work smarter. I’ve built a hierarchy for my priorities that works for me, and I’ve learned to conserve my energy for what matters (teaching and caring for my kids) instead of spending it on things that don’t matter so much.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in the game, but it’s good to know I’m becoming a better player.

In the Game of Tomes.

(I couldn’t resist.)



*Important note: “Can absolutely believe” does not mean  “think highly of” or “am planning to emulate.” Just clarifying for my mom/superintendent.