Your classroom is set up. Your copies are made. Your board is written on.
And you are not even the slightest bit ready for the kids that will be coming into your life tomorrow morning at approximately eight a.m.
This will be my third year, and I remember the terrifying cocktail of emotions, horror and dread and excitement and doubt. I still feel it a little bit, and I’ve heard from seasoned veterans in the profession that it never completely goes away.
Tonight, all I can think about is that first year. The ups and downs feel like they just happened yesterday. So I have a few tips for any of you first years out there. I’m no fount of wisdom, but I learned a lot that first year, and the second year, and maybe I can help someone avoid some of the things I learned the hard way.
First, don’t abandon your enthusiasm. You will have a lot of people shake their heads or laugh at you for being excited, saying things like “Yeah, okay, just wait until you’ve been teaching for ten years. We’ll see if you’re still excited then.” You very well might not be, but I believe that enthusiasm will get you a heck of a lot farther than cynicism. But with kids and coworkers. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing (and you’d better be), don’t hide that. Show it, and be it, and don’t care about the disdain and condescension you might face for it.
Second, put your pride away and prepare to be humbled. Nothing in my life humbled me like staring into the faces of one hundred kids who needed something from me every day. You will be reminded, daily, that you don’t have enough for them. You don’t have the content knowledge, you don’t have the experience, you don’t have have the wisdom. You don’t have everything they need, and you may find yourself left at your desk in tears because of it.
Thirdly, discover and give yourself credit for what you do have. It will take time for you stop feeling so overwhelmed by what you don’t have to find out what you do have for them. Be patient with yourself. But trust that you have a unique perspective, a particular brand of teaching, a personality that gives those kids something they need. You will not ever be able to fulfill their every need, because you were never intended to. Only God can do that. But He has given you a talent that can bless your kids of you can remember to lift your forehead off your desk, wipe your face, and think about what you did right that day. There will be something, even if you have to search for it, a moment where you said exactly what that kid needed to hear, and that will always matter.
Fourthly, ask questions. Make a nuisance of yourself, to every single person you can who’s been there longer than you. Listen to them, even when you think they’re wrong, even if it makes no sense to you right now. Store it away in your mind, and create a file cabinet of wisdom to guide you. They’ve lasted a lot longer than you for a reason, so listen.
Fifthly and finally, pray. If you don’t have a prayer life, start developing one, because you will need it. You will see things that could break you in the lives of your students, and you will need a place to take them. You will need patience, and grace, and guidance, and hope. You will need God more than ever this year, so lean on Him. He’s waiting for you to ask for wisdom, because He’s designated you as the caretaker of His precious children.
It’s a hard job. But it is an incredible job, and you’ve been selected to do it. So, take a deep breath, and get ready! Good luck, my friends. 🙂