Monday, August 3, 2015

An Open Letter to New Teachers

Today was our first day of school.  And I got about 25 pictures, 4 of which actually turned out decently.  Go figure.  But I had not planned on blogging this week, since it is the first week of school and that means that I will be:  happy, exhausted, overwhelmed, thrilled, hungry, scattered, nervous, excited, and thirsty.  Sometimes all at the same time.  And so I thought, "Cathy, we'll take this week off and jump back in next week."

And then this happened.

A former practicum student, who is awesomer than awesome, e-mailed me to say that she has finally landed a job!  Teaching kindergarteners! And that is what she wanted!!

And when I say that she is awesome, I mean she is "cue angel choir singing" awesome.  She is the real deal.  And she had been applying and applying and I had been giving reference after reference and just . . . nothing.  But now she is the proud teacher of a class of kindergartners - with 7 days to prepare.  Can anyone relate?

So, I started to e-mail back a quick congratulations message and then move on to other things.  But then I stopped and I really thought about what she's doing.  And I thought back to when I was getting ready for my first batch of kids, and I jotted down a few thoughts.  And those quickly morphed into 10 bits of "wisdom" for her as she begins this wonderful journey we call teaching.  It was honestly the perfect time for me to do that, because I am caught up in all of the beginning of the year craziness - IEPs and behavior plans and school supply storage and procedures and meetings.  Y'all know how it is.  And I really needed to take the time to take a deep breath and remember why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Without further ado, here is a letter to all of you precious new teachers.

Dear New Teacher,

Those are some very lucky babies who will be walking through your door this week!  I know that you are probably running around like crazy, knee deep in lamination and hot glue, excited and happy and nervous and scared.  And I am NOT normally one for unsolicited advice.  But here are a few words of wisdom as that first day draws closer by the minute.

1.  Take good care of yourself.  Seriously.  Get your shots, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of orange juice, and take your vitamins.  Kids are germ-ridden little creatures, and you can easily catch every little sickness coming through your room this year.  Just know that in a few years you'll have an immune system that's the biological equivalent of a Humvee.

2.  Find someone who has been teaching for a long time, who you respect, and become their new BFF.  They have likely seen things come and go and can tell you what to focus on and what can slide.  They'll also tell you exactly what to say to parents when you run into parent problems.  And you will.  And it will probably not be your fault.  Some people are just difficult.  Try to love them anyway.  Most people really do want what is best for their children.

3.  Keep ibuprofen and a pair of slippers in your room.  Also dark chocolate.

4.  Avoid negative people like the plague.  Even if it means eating lunch in your room.  They will suck you in like a black hole, and before you know it you will feel as if a dementor from Hogwarts has taken your soul.  Surround yourself with the teachers who make you think, "I want to be like THAT."

5.  Secretaries and custodians are your best friends.  Be super duper nice to them, and they'll be nice to you.

6.  You'll mess up.  It is OKAY.  Teaching is one of the only professions where we throw new teachers in and expect them to perform like the seasoned ones from day one.  Just learn from each mistake and don't fret too much.  Whatever you do, someone else (probably me) has done far worse!  I have put kids on the wrong bus, sent home the wrong report cards with EVERY single student in the class, said things I shouldn't have . . . it happens to everyone.

7.  Hug them close.  I lost a former student this past year, and it almost made me want to quit it was so awful.  You never know when one of them won't come back.

8.  Find out what your administrator is reading and read it, too.

9.  Save the good stuff.  I have a folder where I save sweet notes from kids and parents.  When you're having a bad day, it's nice to pull it out and remind yourself of why you do what you do.

10.  Remember that when you shovel away the curriculum and the plans and the worksheets and the crafts that what you will find is a teacher and a kid.  And that is a powerful thing.  Indeed it's the only thing that's ever changed our world.

These next weeks will be fun and busy and exciting and expensive, and you'll probably be more tired than you've ever been in your life.  Enjoy every minute of it.

Happy Back to School!

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