Lessons learned

Well, Friday was my last day of school. I cannot believe I made it through this first year of teaching alive. I must admit, despite all the craziness and stress of this first school year, I can’t believe how fast it went. I feel like I just met many of my students for the first time, and now they are moving onto eighth grade and I am getting a new batch of students. It’s absolute craziness.

I also cannot believe how much I learned this year. I think I probably ended up learning more than I taught (whoops). So many people warned me that this year was going to be a learning/play-it-by-ear year, and I have to say, they were 100% right. I thought it would only be right to share what I have learned in my first year of teaching. Honestly, this is more of a reminder for myself than for any new teachers out there or anything like that, because, as I discovered the hard way, with teaching, you really just have to experience it for yourself to truly understand it. Anyway, here are some of the things the 2008-2009 school year taught me:

  1. 7th graders can be some of the funniest, most creative, wittiest, kindest, and smartest human beings on the planet. There was never a day that passed that one or more didn’t cease to amaze me in some way.
  2. 7th graders can also be the most stubborn, foul-mouthed, meanest, and laziest human beings on the planet. There was never a day that passed that at LEAST one of them didn’t test me, sass me, or make me rethink my career choice in some way.
  3. There is a HUGE difference between being an organized person and an organized teacher. The former does not translate into the latter. I am an organized person. I discovered very quickly, very early on, that I was not an organized teacher. Part of my summer is going to be spent turning into one.
  4. It is much, much, much easier to start off the year being mean than to be nice. I started off this year being too nice, and paid for it the rest of the year. I plan on starting next year being much more GRRRR in the beginning, and slowly easing off (if my students earn it).
  5. Despite what people say, 7th graders are not young adults. They are big kids. They need to be reminded to raise their hands, not to wrestle in the building, when it is an okay time to sharpen their pencils, and to put their toys (yes, toys) away during class.  You can give them responsibilities and privileges, but they have to earn them. Some of them will earn them right away. Some of them never will.
  6. It is easier to find a needle in a haystack then to get middle schoolers to read silently for 30 minutes, even when you let them choose their own reading materials!
  7. As much as you hope to change lives and make a difference, in the first year of teaching, you are literally in survival mode. I often came to school inspired by my fellow teachers and co-workers, not by the students. I am hoping this will change.

This year has been an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs in a way I did not expect way back in August. However, I can also say that, despite the breakdowns and frustrations, I am sincerely looking forward to next school year. But, I am also looking forward to summer, summer, summer . . . so I’ll start looking forward to next school year in about two months, okay?

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