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When I look back on my own teaching experience, I realize that I had a romanticized and idealized view of what my classroom and what the whole experience was going to be like. I was super excited and thrilled to have gotten the job, but also equally terrified about finally having a classroom on my own and having to be completely in charge.
In fact, I still remember that feeling of getting the keys to my first classroom. I remember seeing the keys in the palm of my hand, and I remember walking down that hallway to my own classroom and all of those butterflies in my stomach. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. However, when I turned that key and I opened the door and walked into the room, there were just four bare walls around me. The weight of that responsibility just started to hit me like a tidal wave.
Once the school year began, I felt like I didn’t come up for air for months. It’s very possible that you’re feeling the same way right now. As we inch closer and closer to the holidays, you may be feeling the emotional toll that this year has had on you so far. This is totally normal. I want you to know that there are thousands of new teachers who are going through very similar experiences that you might be going through right now. There is a reason why it is so common for this particular time of year to be so trying.
As you head into Thanksgiving, desperate for a break, I think this is the perfect time for you to hear some practical research that will help you understand why you’re feeling what you’re feeling right now. I know that in my first year of teaching, questioning myself at every turn, I would have been so grateful if someone had shared this information with me. It would have been so helpful for me in feeling less alone and more capable than I really believed I was at the time.
The information I discuss in this episode sheds some light on the phases of first year teaching. The article that I'm drawing this information from was originally published in the newsletter for the California New Teacher Project and it was published by the California Department of Education. This research was published after supporting nearly 1,500 new teachers in their first years of teaching. These teachers kept journals and wrote about their experience throughout the whole year, and this is where the results come from.
Hearing this information will help to normalize the process and experience of being a brand new teacher. It will also bring a sense of hope during this difficult phase you’re in. If you're feeling like you want to quit, like so many new teachers are, just know that rejuvenation is coming. When you're able to look back at the end of the year, possibly the toughest year on record, you’ll know that you made it through with your kids and you didn't give up. Even when it was hard, you stayed, you figured it out, and you improved. It may not feel like it right now, but you're never going to be more proud of yourself or more excited to do it all over again.
I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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