Dear (New) Teacher,
The month of August arrived much faster than we dreamed. For this gal August means back to my classroom for another school year. But before tomorrow, the first day of school in my district, I want to pause and offer a quick reminder on why we do what we do.
In the midst of setting up my classroom, helping new teachers, attending meetings, professional development, meet the teacher, and relearning how to wake up early the chaos of starting a new school year encompasses me. But in the middle of all the tasks to accomplish I want to offer a shift in our perspective.
New teachers (and frankly all teachers), do not underestimate yourself. I know you may feel out of place, already burnt out, overwhelmed, anxious, and like you have no clue what you are doing. I remember my first day of teaching when the classroom door closed behind me and I realized I was somehow the adult in charge. I did not know what to do.
My perfect lesson plans sat on the desk, but my heart was beating so fast I thought it might actually burst out of my chest. After all of my preparation I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Fear gripped me. But I did it. And each year I get to learn something new. Very often new teachers are the very teachers who push and challenge me to continue to hone my craft. You are more equipped for this than you even know, but learn from those around you.
I still have so much to learn. That first year and throughout my teaching career, I sold myself short. We must all walk in confidence that comes from the Lord. Your students need you, and you need them. I learn more about life, myself, and the world around me from my students each year.
If you walk through this year in prayer, God will do exactly what He plans. He placed you in that classroom with those kids. And those kids at that school, they are going to change the world for good. You might be the only one who sees each child as God does. Others may see a diagnosis or a behavior. But you, you get to see what lies underneath the facade others see. You get to see past the gunk and uncover the beauty in each and every little heart sitting in your room. You get to cheer children and parents along in life. You have the privilege to partner with families and spur them onward to continued greatness.
For the next nine months you get to invest in little lives. Little lives that will grow up and be adults. Yes, you have curriculum to cover, IEPs, lesson plans, behavior meetings, test to give, papers to grade, skills for children to master and much more. Each of those things holds great importance and should not be pushed to the side. But nothing is as important as the children who sit in your room.
You will spend time learning who each one of your students is. You get to know what makes them laugh, what makes them light up, and what makes them angry. You get to watch them make friends and come out of their shell. You will get the best hugs and hear some of the greatest laughs. You get to be the person who walks along side them as they struggle with a concept or skill until it clicks. You get to see them overcome challenges and heartache. You will wipe tears and learn more about Moana, Minecraft, and other things you did not know existed. You will get to see some of the fruits of your dedication, but not all of it.
There will be days you want to quit and walk away. When the child you’ve gone above and beyond investing in tells you they hate you, it will sting. When a kid you know has the greatest heart calls someone a name, you will wonder how you can reach them differently. When you know how hard a child has worked and they still haven’t gone up a reading level or mastered that skill they worked so hard on, your heart will break a little because you know how bright they truly are. When a child who you know has experienced more than you could process gets triggered and flips tables in your classroom or tears up that poster you spent forever making, you might get upset for a moment and yet you will still choose to love them unconditionally.
You will work harder than you ever have. But trust me it is worth it. Your other friends may have fancy jobs where they are compensated monetarily in more rewarding ways than you, but I promise the work you do means more than a paycheck.
You chose to enter a classroom full of little lives. Little lives who will change the world for good. You get to be a small part of their story. Choose to invest wisely. Love each child deeply. Tell them who you really see in each of them. Help them dream big and set goals to get there. It can seem like a time suck or just another thing to do, but get to know their family. Call the parent or guardian who only gets calls from the office when there is a problem to tell them about the good things their child did that day. Celebrate the moments of greatness and work to build on them. Even the smallest moments, celebrate them. Ask the aunt who has taken on more than you can fathom how she is doing, and truly mean it. Listen. Pray. Seek God for discernment.
Show each child the grace and mercy of Christ. Hold them accountable and do not lower the bar or expectation. They will rise to the occasion. Speak truth into their hearts. When others see your kid and say things like, “they’re such a hard kid” or “that kid is so rough”, do not be afraid to correct them. Tell them what you see. Tell that misguided adult who your student really is. Tell them about the amazing thing that kid does each day. Tell them about the empathy, care, and kindness you see them show others. Tell them about their talents and their strengthens. Stand up for them. Flip the narrative for your students.
The beginning of school is jam packed with a never ending list of things to accomplish, do not get caught up in the list alone. Make moments to hear the children that sit in your room. Make time to listen to them. Take this time to build relationships. You will feel like you are losing precious instructional time. But your investment will pay off. I promise.
With the start of school you gain a lot of responsibility, no doubt. But your greatest responsibility is the little lives that enter your classroom and will steal your heart. You cannot control who walks through your classroom door this year, but you can control how you treat the little lives who join your class. Create a space where each child is known, loved, valued, belongs, and is able to be who they were made to be. Take the time to know them and let them know you. And new and old teachers, remember to laugh and smile with your students. These memories will hold a space in your heart on those horrible, no good, very bad days.
You build a legacy that extends far beyond you with each child and family you invest in. As the musical Hamilton says, “Legacy, what is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” Each child who walks into your classroom will hold a place in time. They will be a part of your legacy and you a part of their legacy. What do you want to grow in each of those stories?
Go boldly into this school year. Breath deeply. Wipe the slate clean with each new day for yourself and for your students. You got this.
Miss Steinocher, Second Grade Teacher