6 Things I Learned as a First Year Teacher

‘First Year Teacher’ has been a strange title to hold this year. While I mostly forgot about it at work, it was at grad school and district-wide events that it really shined as an exceptionally weird thing.

At grad school, surrounded by student teachers who I overwhelmingly liked but didn’t have a ton of time to connect with, I was sometimes ignored, something applauded, and sometimes confronted with hostility. To be honest I didn’t like any of those responses and regretted every time I brought up my teaching practice as a present avenue and not a future one.

When interacting with other teachers at professional developments and state exam grading I was mostly looked at with surprise and reminiscence, as though the very thought of it being my first year brought every teacher back to theirs.

It’s strange now that after this first year being such a big deal, none of my coming years will ever mean so much in name, to me or anyone else. Only a little over two weeks out from the end of the school year and I’m still trying to gain some perspective. Mostly I just feel a little bored, a little stressed (finishing my MA), and I really kind of miss my students.

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All that said, I did manage to learn a hand full of important lessons in as a first year teacher.

1. The People Around You Matter

I got insanely lucky with colleagues. I’ve heard the horror stories of apathetic and angry teachers, veterans who don’t care and newbies who think they run the world. I got so lucky with my school family – they are kind and smart and, above all, they care about the kids. Every time I was upset, I had emotional and practical support.

I also made my own support outside of school, leaning on friends and fellow teachers when times were tough. Having a support system, particularly one made up of other people in education is key to survival.

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2. Students are like Family.

You won’t always like them, sometimes you want to throw them out a window and, but you will still love them.

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Throughout the year, when I was unsure about an action I’d taken or something I’d said, I asked myself if the root of it was love. If the answer was no, I needed to apologize.

3. Apologies Hold Huge Power

No one apologizes to kids, especially not adults. Even when they’re wrong, terribly wrong, adults rarely apologize. Early in October I snapped at a kid, it was a passing moment in a bad day, but it wasn’t fair.

I thought about it a lot that night and the next day I pulled her aside when I saw her at lunch and said “hey, I’m really sorry I snapped at you yesterday, that wasn’t fair and you didn’t deserve that.” The look on her face was comically confused and unsure and then she broke into a smile, told me it was ok, and hugged me.

When you’re wrong, apologize.

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4. Self Care

All of the self care. In the beginning of the year, I constantly felt overwhelmed by the amount I needed to prepare and learn and grow and more then once I found myself at school way too late. I brought work home and I was killing my self to finish everything.

I was blessed with an amazing co-teacher  who really kept me honest about self care and cracked down on this. He told me to go home, he helped me finish things, he simplified my to do list, he reminded me that the first year is not about being the best it’s about survival.

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Sometimes it won’t get done but you’ll have taken a long bath and gotten some rest so that you can keep loving the kids and being a good teacher.

5. Take a Day Off

This goes with number four, but needed it’s own section. You get sick and personal days.  Use them. Not excessively, but use them.

Coming to school if you’re too sick, too distracted by something outside of school, or too wrecked to do a good job will only hurt the kids. Take a day, get your head and your body right and never feel bad about it.

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6. Nothing Will Ever be Fully Prepared

No, shut up, no it won’t, just stop. Just when you think you’ve created the perfect lesson and sink hours into making it just right, the whole plan will get thrown by a student question or a broken Smart Board (in May when the tech budget is gone for the year) or a fire drill.

I stopped putting hours into lessons because it only led to disappointment. Plan, absolutely plan and be creative and create cool lessons but don’t plan so long and so hard that you’ll be heartbroken when the plan inevitably gets derailed.

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Teachers, aspiring teachers, retired teachers, parents, students, and anyone else; I’d love to know your thoughts and any big lessons you’ve learned lately in the comments!

Best of luck.

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I Went to the Red Carpet & Lived to Tell the Tale

It’s been a bleak few weeks for the blog, for a lot of reasons. The most important one is that I went on a vacation in which I mostly disconnected from technology, hung out with family (including adorable children), saw old friends for the first time in way too long, explored Seattle all over again, and finally ended up in LA, hanging out at the actual Red Carpet for the Oscars.

Also I caught the plague from previously mentioned adorable children and am still a snot factory and temporarily deaf in one ear. Turns out a terrible cold can turn into my very first sinus infection with a side of ear infection.

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But yes, you did read that correctly I was just chillin on (well, near) the Red Carpet with my new besties Lin, Taraji, and Dev. No big deal.

Except very big deal.

How? You ask. Well, about a month ago I got a mysterious email from People magazine/The Skimm saying I’d won first prize in the Oscars Fan Experience Contest. Naturally I assumed it was a scam, but I decided to research it further because the whole thing sounded vaguely familiar. Eventually I found that I had in fact entered on a whim and The Skimm verified that it was not only a real contest, but I was one of the winners.

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I didn’t win grand prize including air fare and hotel accommodations, but since I’d planned on being in Seattle already and have an awesome friend in LA, the detour only cost me an extra $80.

For the Oscars.

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I invited my friend from Grad School and we arrived at the Oscar Fan Experience location at 9:30 on Sunday, the big day. Well, 9:35 because the map they provided did not include all of the streets or the curvature of the main road (this is why we need to teach geography in schools).

I’m not going to lie, I brought a book because I definitely couldn’t figure out what we could possibly be doing between 9:30 and 2, when the Red Carpet officially opened. I assumed they just needed a lot of time to seat all of us.

But when we arrived we were immediately given a swag bag (notable gifts include a USB power bank, a seat cushion, adorable sunglasses, a billion snacks, and an Oscars Fan Experience t-shirt), donuts and tons of coffee. We were then directed to the various “glam stations” which included hand massages, a hair bar, photo areas and tarot card readings. This was followed by a delicious lunch. We were plenty busy until it was time.

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Around 1:50 we made our way to the bleachers and looked out upon the Red Carpet, the press, and the manic-looking assistants/interns/coordinators. I was told by an obnoxious* woman in front of me that we’d missed some big stars (Ryan Seacrest, who remained on the carpet all night, and some reality star dude).

It took about an hour for celebrities to really start arriving, but once they showed up they were there in droves.

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Because I can’t even describe to you all the feelings and excitement, here is a list of the celebrities I was within 15 feet of on Oscars night:

  • Lin Manuel Miranda (he saluted us)
  • Dev Patel
  • Jim Parsons
  • Busy Phillips and Michelle Williams
  • Trevante Rhodes
  • Taraji P. Henson
  • Chrissy Teigen and John Legend
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Felicity Jones
  • Emma Stone
  • Andre Holland
  • Dwayne Johnson
  • Octavia Specer
  • Darby Stanchfield
  • Mahershala Ali
  • Jason Bateman (he winked at us)
  • Andrew Garfield
  • Salma Hayek
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Sara Bareilles
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Halle Berry
  • Janelle Monae
  • Matt Damon
  • Kirsten Dunst
  • Charlize Theron
  • Ashton Sanders
  • Brie Larson
  • Ruth Negga
  • Emma Roberts
  • Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel
  • Denzel Washington
  • Meryl Streep
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Naomie Harris

There were others, I’m sure there were others, but my excited little brain stopped processing new information at a certain point.

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After the Red Carpet excitement, we were taken to the El Capitan Theater nearby where we were given food upon food upon food and sat down to watch the show. Even though we didn’t get to be in the real theater, watching the Oscars in this delightful old theater (while stuffing my face with free food) was pretty cool.

I know you’re wondering and yes I took pictures but honestly they are terrible in comparison to what you’ll find if you just use google.

You should know though that John Legend and Chrissy Teigen love each other that much up close and everyone else is exactly as attractive as you thought.

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Best of luck.

I Went to the Red Carpet

*Barbara from Ohio spent the entire evening in my personal space, leaning back on my legs to show me her pictures and asking who each and every celebrity was.

Classroom Portraits: Pete, Javier & Mercedes

I’ve decided it’s time for me to introduce some of my students and celebrate the magical moments of my profession. I’m hoping this will be a regular series, so please let me know if you enjoy it.

Pete

I had Pete in my government class first term. He was always sweet but spent a lot of time trying to sleep through class, begging to be given a task that required less effort and in the end, he barely skated by.

Going through this brought us pretty close. Every single day he comes into my classroom after school and we do our patented jumping high-five, where we back to either side of the classroom and run at each other, jumping and high fiving mid-air in the middle. Every time he exclaims “now my day is complete!” and runs out the door.

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Javier

Javie and I also had a rough first term together. He’s known for leaving class suddenly and disappearing for half the period, cursing out teachers who call him on his behavior, and generally keeping everyone off task. This term, after so many good days, bad days, and long meetings, he’s in my class again. He has grown up a lot in a few weeks.

Last week we held a Class Court for the case of NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin. Many of the more engaged students participated in the court early on and I watched as Javie alternated between talking to a student near him and listening to the other side. I would have been happy with this behavior, but then there came a booming voice from his side of the court.

Javie spoke clearly and with all the professionalism of an attorney defending the rights of workers and the role of the government. He stayed calm when questioned by the judges and stood for his team when challenged. At the end of the period I stopped him and told him I wanted to see this every day. He grinned at me and said “I’ll try.”

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Mercedes

Mercedes is a very sensitive kid whose hurt usually turns quickly to anger, cursing, and fighting. She struggled through the first term but passed. She says hi to me in the hall everyday and has this infectious, crooked smile that I just can’t describe.

At the beginning of January, she came into my classroom at lunch and talked to me about her second term classes. She complained about biology and English but said she liked art well enough. She turned to leave and get some food but then turned back enough and said, “I never got a chance to thank you for all your help last term, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

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These precious moments with this amazing young people bring me up from the very drudges. The best advice I’ve received so far as an educator is to write down this good moments, these students showing you their best selves and cherish them. These moments can save you from the very worst days.

Fellow teachers (and others), do you have any of these moments you hold on to?

Best of luck.

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Hip Spring Trends

****WARNING: Moderate Snark Ahead****

Welcome to the first day of Spring! In honor of the equinox, I’m sharing some of my favorite Spring trends in fashion, beauty and more, enjoy!

Top Fashion Trends

Clothes that make you feel comfortable

Clothes that make you feel beautiful

Clothes that cover the necessary parts to avoid being arrested (this will depend on your country/state/city of course)

Clothes that keep you warm or cool enough for the current weather in your area

Top Make-Up Trends Continue reading