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Reflections from Year 3 of Teaching

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I just arrived home from the last day of school.

Thus ended my third year of teaching.

Although I still have one more day of work for this school year…post-planning…I wanted to take time out to reflect about this year.

The best way I can sum up this year in one word is magical.

It was so different from my first two years of teaching.

The first year was filled with so much angst caused by new-teacher syndrome, where I questioned everything I did and lacked the confidence and know-how to fix mistakes from class to class.

Last year, my second year of teaching, was filled with more angst as I moved into the public school system and into a different subject area.  It was almost as if I was having a second “first year,” and I often referred to the year as such.

Learning to teach reading was so intimidating, especially when surrounded by the fabulous teachers in my department.

I also had to learn how to teach struggling, under-resourced students.

This proved to be very challenging, but I finally had found my comfort zone.  I absolutely fell in love with teaching reading, and I adored the students at my school.

This year, my third, proved challenging in different ways.

My time was consumed with back-to-back professional development classes…for months on end.

What made this year so magical, though, was that I had a lot more confidence, both in the subject area and in my ability to teach it.

I finally accepted that it was okay to teach my way, quirks and all.

Because of my new-found confidence, I was able to devote more time and energy to building relationships with my students.

This had been a concern for me at the end of the previous year after a student had commented on an end-of-the-year survey that I should “try to get to know my students better.”  That comment hurt me in its honesty, and it was something I reflected on all summer.

I learned how to work through the trust issues that so many of my students had.  They came into school with so much extra baggage that more privileged students don’t have to carry, that I had to learn to be patient, especially through the times when students seemed to hate my guts.

Most of them came around eventually, won over by my consistency and sincerity.

I learned how to pick my battles better.  Though I wasn’t perfect, I saw real growth in this area.

Thus it was with genuine sadness that I bid farewell to my students.

I first said goodbye to my 1st/2nd period class.

This class was the best class I’ve had in these three years of teaching.  They knew, from the get-go, how much I loved them, for that love was hard to hide, and they thrived on it…on their good reputation…and they surpassed every expectation I had…behaviorally and academically.

As they left my classroom for the last time, I hugged all but one student’s neck (that student, despite numerous problems the last few weeks of school, gave me a fist pump).

My friend, Barb, witnessed those hugs.

They were the most genuine, tight hugs I’ve ever received…from anyone…in my life.

One young man, a gentle soul, hugged me with a desperation that nearly broke my heart.

He did not want to let go.

Barb saw this, and we marveled over it later.

He was the young man who had asked me to teach him how to write in cursive early in the year.

Another young guy started out by doing some sort of secret handshake with me.

I’ll admit that I was a little scared at first.  I’d learned early on not to let kids do funky handshakes with me; however, he assured me that it wasn’t anything bad.

After doing the handshake, he hugged me too.

BONUS!

As I hugged my students, I told them that I loved them.

Such sweet babies.

I said goodbye to my 4th/5th period class today, and they too, had been a wonderful class the entire year.

I had actually been surprised when one young man showed up for class today.  We’d already had our final exam, so many of my students did not show up.

He said, “I could have slept in before coming to take my last exam, but I wanted to see you one more time.”

To know this child and the anger issues he struggles with might help you understand how appreciative I was of his words.  He and I had experienced a big blowout right after school started; however, I asked his forgiveness, and from that point forward, I became very sensitive to his moods, brushed off his sarcastic remarks, and we got along marvelously.

These students had been a very cohesive group.  They had endured every one of the observations that my principal and others had done.  They showed their best when it mattered most, and I will always love them for that.

Every one of these students hugged me tightly when they left.  I will miss them dearly.

I also said goodbye to my 6th/7th period class near the end of the day.

These kiddos struggled…a lot…this year.

Their behavior was less than stellar much of the time, and it required much more patience than I thought I was capable of.

I wrote up many of these students…often.

Somewhere along the line, though, my consistency won them over, and something strange happened.

They started cooperating.

They started holding each other accountable.

They began sticking up for me when other students were giving me a hard time.

Several students made great headway in their behavior…seemingly overnight.

I think of all of my classes, this one made the most progress.  They had started so much further behind that the improvement in their academics and behavior was easier to see.

I hugged these kiddos as they left.  Three of my boys only allowed me to give them fist pumps, which worked fine with me.

After my last class left, my room seemed so empty…devoid of the noise and motion that had defined it for 180 days.

As I emptied folders and recycled the personal files I’d kept on my students, I thought of each of them…of the personal victories and the unique relationship I developed with each child.

A couple of days ago, one of my girls had asked me if I would really remember them in a year or two.  I assured her, and the rest of the class, that I most definitely would.

I explained that each student who enters my room leaves a permanent imprint on my heart…one that is unique to that child.  That’s not something I’ll easily forget.

My third year of teaching had been magical in many ways.

I am so grateful for the passion that God has given me for teenagers.

I can’t think of a better way to serve Him.

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3 Responses

  1. Great reflections on your third year: I am glad things are going so well for you. Keep up the good work. Now, on to year four.

  2. I can’t believe you’re in your 3rd year!!! Where is the time going?

    “Magical” … that’s an awesome word!!! So awesome how you touch the kids lives & they in turn touch yours 🙂

  3. Nat,

    I truly enjoyed this issue. I forwarded it to two of my first year teachers so they could be secure in the thought that things get better every year! As always thanks for sharing!

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