A Teacher’s Day In The Life (7): Getting a Job Doesn’t Stop the Learning

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my teaching – what I’ve learned, what I’d do differently, what I can’t believe I’ve said.  We all do.  With teaching, we have such an incredible opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make changes each year, with each new group of students.  We can try things out and tweak our lessons until we’re satisfied.  And then start all over again when that one group of students turns everything on its head or when we get thrown into a new class or grade level.  My first year of teaching was especially challenging because I was completely out of my comfort zone in a new state, with students who were entirely different from what I was used to.

Post 7I was in California when I got my first teaching job.  The student population was much more diverse than where I grew up, and the students faced issues I’d only ever heard about in my education classes.  The school was also huge.  Since it was in California, the “hallways” were outside, the classrooms were in mobiles, and sand and dust covered everything.  I loved it, though, and I was so excited to start my career.

I learned quickly that I struggle with classroom management.  It’s not something I’m naturally good at.  One issue that played into this is that I had exceptionally large class sizes – at one point I had a class of over 40 seniors. However, that didn’t excuse me from working at finding a balance between relating well to my students and commanding the classroom.

I was not successful at this my first year teaching.

I didn’t even start to figure this out until about three years ago.  The result of not knowing how to effectively manage a class is a chaotic environment where your students think they’ve gained a new BFF.  They take advantage of the super awesome relationship and believe they can do and say whatever they want without getting in trouble.

I also made some interesting lesson choices in being idealistic and willing to try anything.  For example, I thought I had this great idea for a lesson for my first observation.  I wanted to show off my strengths in relating to the students while getting them to relate to the content.  We were talking about stereotypes as it related to a book we were reading.  The activity involved allowing the students to ask me questions.  I let them ask me whatever they wanted – it was not a smart choice.  Thankfully, the assistant principal had other things to deal with and had to reschedule my observation.

Financially, I wish I had saved more.  I spent a ton of money that first year on supplies, clothes and stuff for my apartment, when I should have been saving and paying off student loans.  The possibility of not having a job never really crossed my mind until it was too late to put together an emergency fund.  Unfortunately, my pattern of spending didn’t change even when I was living with my parents after this first year of teaching.  I could have put the money that I would’ve spent on rent towards my student loans.  Instead, I spent my money on comforting my bruised ego.  I’m an emotional spender and this is a problem when it comes to our finances.

I’m still working on my spending and my classroom management eight years into my career.  I’m a constant work in progress.  But I’m glad for that.  I love to learn.  It’s probably why I teach.