Where I Started
It all started back in 2011. 2011 seems extremely long ago. In 2011, girls, including myself, were into fadora's, hair feathers, and the Snooki pouf. The top songs were 'Rolling in the Deep' by Adele, 'Party Rock Anthem' by LMFAO, and 'Super Bass' by Nicki Minaj. Hurricane Irene hit Texas, the Nintendo 3DS came out, and Kate Middleton and William got married. That was 2011.
That was the year I job searched for my first teaching position. That was the year I used every connection I had and went to countless interviews. The general consensus was, I lacked experience. I felt like most college graduates feel after graduating. How can I get experience if no one will take a chance on me?
I retreated to applying for Instructional Assistant (IA) positions. I landed as an IA at Forest Dale Elementary in Carmel. It wasn't my dream job, but it was a job, and I knew I had to gain experience before someone would hire me. I put in the time and effort. I loved everyone I worked with, the teachers and administration there. But I wasn't content or happy. I didn't feel like I was where I needed to be. So I continued my job search.
Through my connections, I took over a maternity leave to teach 5th grade in a township school. This was my first real teaching position. It was temporary, but I was finally getting my experience. I remember when I took a tour after being hired, people laughing at me, asking if I was really the person taking over the maternity leave. Probably because every child in the school was five inches taller than me and could probably throw me across the room. This was the most difficult four months of my life. I had to start the school year, which I had never done before. I had to teach 5th grade math, which I taught myself each night before. I had to deal with problems I was never equipped to handle. This included chairs thrown, fights happen, screaming matches, students running, and I came home bruised. Everything difficult you could imagine happened that semester. But shortly after I left, my most difficult student called me and shared that I had impacted her life in a meaningful way. That made the whole semseter worth it.
Then I took a teaching position in the same district in 2nd grade. I thought things would get easier, but it didn't. The same difficult situations happened and was matched with an admin that was tough as nails. It drained me. It took a toll on my marriage. It took a toll on my body. I have no clue how I worked my last year there pregnant with Riggs, my first son. But some of the best educators worked in this district alongside me. The dedication, energy, and passion these teachers taught with each day was inspiring. I took it for granted while I was there. I pray for these teachers daily because I know the battle they fight. The difference they make in those students lives is irreplaceable.
After months and months of praying, interviewing, and wanting to quit teaching all together, I got a break. I had previously reached out to a principal the year before, but at that time he had no openings. I reached out again as a one last ditch effort. He immediately got back to me and asked me to come in that same day. I was ecstatic! I was offered a year long maternity leave in kindergarten. Again, this was not a permanent contract, but it was my best option and the school district I prayed to be in. And here I am. Loving kindergarten, my school, my collegues, my admin, my families, and my students.
I say all this and give you this backgorund because back in 2011 I thought I knew why I wanted to teach and my teaching philosophy. I always said, "because I love kids and I want to see that lightbulb go off!". I feel like this is a very common answer graduating teachers give/feel. Am I right?
I recently realized that depending on your first teaching position, your teaching philosophy and your method of teaching can be shaped instantly. Whatever that school believes in and provides professional developement for is what you follow. That slowly can get engrained in you. I was typing 5-7 page daily lesson plans. Writing objectives and depth of knowledge questions on the board each day. Providing daily homework. Using a clipchart to put on show how each student was doing. Yelling to grab students attention. Holding doors shut so no kid would run out. Bribing students with food and gadgets for good behavior. I was using as many worksheets as I could to keep the kids "engaged". This was what I did for almost 3 years. I was clearly surviving, not teaching.
When I came to my current district, the big push was a more Reggio style approach. More play, which was fronwed upon at my previous school. I was so excited to get out of my previous box that I jumped on board and went all in. I re-did my room, and researched what I could. I did the best I could teaching kindergarten. Which was a lovely and shocking experience all at the same time. Until now, I never felt like I was teaching the way I believed was best for kids. I always was told what to do and I did it. I fell into the trap of believing what others thought was best. I never had time to find what I truly believed in. How I truly felt kids learned best.
Until this year (2018-2019). This is the year I truly found my 'why', my beliefs, and what I think is best for kids. It took me almost 7 years, but I'm here. My fire is re-lit. My passion and excitement is back. My love for engagement, joy, and purpose is in my room. I've found how I can empower my students. I've found MY 'why' and MY philosphy.
My advice for new teachers. Find YOUR 'why'. Don't ever let a school or district take your 'why' away from you or tell you what to believe in. I was too nieve to know better. Take time to invest in yourself and grow as a professional. You deserve it and your students deserve it.
What is your 'why', your philosophy, your big three? Take time to find it. Don't let another school year go by without investing in yourself.