It’s April, teachers. You’re almost there.
New teachers may be inclined to think that “veteran” teachers have their craft mastered, their evenings free, and their lessons detailed down to the minute. New teachers may also be inclined to think that those who’ve been in the profession have it easier or, at the very least, have more of it “figured out.”
What a load of crap.
The end of this year will mark my seventh in teaching. While that still makes me fairly new to the race, when I was a new teacher I prefigured that I’d have more of this mastered by now.
News flash: I don’t. Even bigger news flash: I won’t–ever. Here’s a brief list why that will be true for as long as I, or anyone else, is in the profession. There’s also a few absolute true-isms just in case you are new(er) to the race, too (aka – Stuff Newbies Need to Know).
1.) No one is ever going to fully understand you, at least no human that is. That being said, people—students, parents, administrators—will continually misinterpret your motives and intentions in a variety of areas. The trick is to not become offended or upset when this happens (this is the part where I try to take my own advice). Another way to avoid this is to repeatedly state or discuss your purpose for doing what you’re doing, whether that’s a topic in class or a proposal with a superior. Bring up why it matters. I think the rule of thumb for getting someone to remember a new concept is to bring it up seven times. Annoy the heck out of people with your purpose. Annoy? Educate? Same thing, really.
2.) You will constantly change what you’re doing every year, maybe every week. There’s a lovely myth that as you teach you’ll develop a cache of lessons and at some point not even need to plan, because why plan when you can just take a lesson out of your Binder Full of Good Things I’ve Already Taught Before?! I do keep track of what I’ve taught before, and I do have copious binders brim-filled with plans, worksheets, and ideas. Do I re-do topics and materials that I’ve taught before? Yes. Do I ever reuse all of the materials? Nope. Every year brings new students, and new students need new content. You will recycle certain parts—strategies, clips, articles—but you won’t have a day when you can just stop planning and “have it all ready for you to teach.” That’s not a real thing. At least, that’s not a real thing when you honestly care about students learning your content.
3.) April is always going to be a hellish month. In fact, if you can ration your personal days for April, it might be a good idea. (I’m only sort of kidding.) The fact is that it’s getting warmer outside in most areas of the U.S. and kids can smell the summer. They’re sticking their noses in the air—sometimes literally putting their heads out the windows—and sniffing the scent of summer right around the corner. Will they work? Maybe. If you entice them, they’ll work. This time of year is when you need to break out the good stuff. If you have a favorite lesson to teach—chemical bonding, poetry, roller blading—this is the time to teach it. Students need to see excitement and passion–anything–in order for them to want to learn it. It won’t matter how many years you teach, the only time this will change is if spring comes really early and this section of time becomes March through April. Marril. I hope Marril never visits you.
4.) May will always be worse than April because state testing and end-of-the-year tests crush everyone’s souls. And by everyone I mean everyone—dementors come to visit between passing periods and no one is left standing. My suggestion: have a stash of Oreos and peanut M&Ms in random places throughout your classroom. They’re lifeblood. It’s best to adopt an attitude of “Whatever! I didn’t have anything planned for today!” in May. There will be random days where nothing gets done, and some of them may be really important. Maybe your school will have a charity day for Relay for Life or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society—which is awesome! But you won’t get anything done. Know this early, and adopt a zen response like “It’s okay. They’re learning to be good people” or “I really do need to stop staring at red ink.” Whatever your mantra, try to make it kind and not attack the children.
5.) Not everyone is going to like you or your lessons. As such, you’ll likely think too much about that and forget that you’re pretty awesome at what you do. Let’s face it, anyone outside of your classroom hasn’t had 4+ years of content-specific training in your field, but you have. You know what you’re doing. If someone doesn’t like you or your lessons—and you have very valid reasons for doing them (see #1)—then they really just need help understanding. Be patient with them. They’re the challenge you need to make sure you’re on top of your game. They will also be the reason you never have it “all figured out.” Some years you might not be able to do your favorite unit because you know your students aren’t ready, aren’t mature enough, or aren’t ________. There will always be something, but you need to remember that you know what you’re doing. Don’t question it. They don’t just give teaching degrees to anyone; you earned it, and you’ve got this.
Now that we have all of that out of the way, go enjoy the fact that you’ve only got six weeks left. Keep on keepin’ on, my fellow teachers. You’ve got this!