If you absolutely hate the first few days (or even weeks) of school, you’re in good company. I was discussing this with some friends yesterday and we all agreed that the start of a new school year is the least rewarding time to be a teacher.
You don’t know your kids yet, and they don’t know you. You’re spending all your time repeating expectations and setting up routines. You haven’t wrapped your head around where your students are at academically and why is that kid acting like that, anyway? Couple all of this with new administrators or curriculum or standards or assessments–or maybe even a combination of those–and this job feels incredibly overwhelming.
My friends, can I speak some encouragement into your life right now? Teaching is going to get better. Don’t judge the entire school year by your first few weeks.
That kid who is driving you nuts? He’s going to settle into your classroom soon–he’ll learn your expectations and figure out you’re not going to give up on him. You might not see a miraculous turnaround, but you’re going to see slow, steady improvements, intermixed with the occasional backslide. There will be forward progress. It’s going to get better.
That seemingly never-ending amount of paperwork and data collection you’re being pressured to complete? You’re going to figure out a system for managing it all. You’ll learn shortcuts, you’ll figure out how to team up with co-workers to lighten the load, and you’ll discover how to prioritize your work so the most important stuff always gets done on time. It seems like way too much right now, and honestly, it probably is. But the burden of bureaucracy won’t feel so heavy in a few weeks when your classroom is humming along and the good stuff starts happening.
Remember: You haven’t yet seen kids who were struggling with a skill for weeks finally hit that lightbulb moment.
You haven’t yet experienced a reading block which flows smoothly enough for you to enjoy watching your students discover a fantastic book.
You haven’t yet formed a bond with your students so that they confide in you, give you glimpses into their hopes and dreams, or tell you how much they love having you as a teacher.
You haven’t yet seen your students transform from shaky readers and mathematicians to skilled ones, from insecure to confident, from unmotivated to focused on pursuing a learning passion, or from awkward and friendless to respected by peers.
These are the moments that make teaching worth it. And, these are moments of growth, so you won’t see them until some more time has passed. Don’t get discouraged now–the good stuff is right on the horizon!
Train your eye to look for the small wins. Celebrate every little success, not only in your mind when you’re tempted to replay your endless to-do list but also out loud with children. Don’t get distracted by the documentation and paperwork and meetings–handle your business, but always, always, keep your heart and mind focused on the kids. They’re the best part of this job, and it’s only going to get better with them from here on out.