Cleaning out my room this week, it has been interesting to look at my accumulated papers from the past year one last time as I throw them in the recycling bin. Glancing at all of the informational papers I received from my administration during the first week of school brings back the feeling of looking at them for the first time, not comprehending their meaning, and then depositing them into my desk drawer, where many of them would stay for the next 9 months.
I remember being completely overloaded with information on school policy and procedures and pretty much pushing it all out of mind to be able to dedicate all of my focus on the physical process of teaching—the actual process standing up in front of the class and delivering a message or lesson. In the beginning, this, in and of itself, was a huge challenge for me. It’s a lot harder than delivering a speech, because in addition to remembering what you want to say and how you want to deliver it, there is the whole aspect of actively monitoring and managing the classroom at the same time. For the first couple of months, all of this took a lot of conscious effort, and I remember that it slowed my speech to a crawl.
I also get the dubious pleasure of seeing the horrible lesson plans and materials that I saved from September, none of which is even remotely close to being worthy of keeping. I used to hand out individual, unstapled sheets for each of the activities we’d do in class, and then hopelessly try to collect them for grading, with no real plan for organizing them myself or for having the students organize them. It was absolutely insane.
Looking at my anecdotal records, individual conduct sheets, and class monitoring sheets brings back memories of how chaotic my room was at the beginning of the year (at still to a pretty great extent up until spring break). I’m reminded of what it was like to have the dreaded 901 class for 30 minutes for homeroom, 110 minutes for math, and 60 minutes for intervention, all in one day, especially when back in October when it was stacked with some of our most dysfunctional students. We didn’t lose a whole lot of students this year, but the majority of them were at one point or another in my homeroom.
I’ll be hanging on to my folder of observations from throughout the course of the year, although I’ll likely never have the desire to read them again. Some of my worst afternoons were those when I sat down to read observation reports, which were rarely flattering, and often downright discouraging.
Leaving this room, I’ll cherish memories like teaching 110 minute classes in 90 degree heat, and when my water bottle froze because it was 25 degrees in my room.
It’s been a mostly gloomy year, but there have been some good moments. It was rare this year that I was the teacher I wanted to be, or that my students were achieving on absolute levels that I could be proud of. That’s not to say that I feel entirely negative toward the year. It’s just that the real positivity comes from remembering what it was really like in the beginning and reflecting on how much my students have matured academically and socially and how much I have improved in my job as a teacher. My students aren’t on grade level, but a lot of them have moved within reach. I’m especially proud of how far they have come in terms of their maturity.
I know am by no means a fantastic teacher, but at least I don’t still feel like the worst teacher ever. It was very validating getting a flattering end of the year review. I know I’ve still got work to do to feel as though I’ve earned it. In the end, my first year’s in the bank, and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. I’m actually looking forward to having a much better, more productive, and more enjoyable second year.