Rules, check! Teacher lesson plan book, check! Chalk, check! Department of Child Services referral, check! Wait that was not on my checklist. The two graduate classes that I was taking did not say anything about filling out referrals for child services. We worked on organizing your class for a week, but no mention of handling irate parents or getting Julio not to crawl on the floor. I felt unprepared, until my maternal instincts and humility kicked in. Why am I struggling when I can relate to my students? So I took time to walk in their shoes! The first year of teaching could make or break me. I choose to make me into a real educator!
Urban students is the label given. Amazingly made students with an array of different beautiful hues and inquisitive minds are who they are. Their potential for greatness is not defined by how others view them. Given the opportunity, they ask questions, come up with solutions, and can teach me a thing or two. They are not perfect, but amazing.
Wow, what a difference when I viewed them holistically! I’m not just talking about the fact that there was substantial growth on the NY State Test for reading and math that year, but that a majority of the students were actively engaged daily and showing growth. My attendance was really good, most of my parents were more receptive (I had a few who didn’t drink the Kool-aide), and when I got the first, “mommy can I?”, I knew I was on my way! They didn’t all love me, but they respected me and knew I genuinely had their best interest at heart. All 30 of them, but that’s a different journal entry!
I learned a lot that year about myself and how important it was to be vulnerable in the process. Over 20 years have gone by, and the lessons of the first year still come up in my reflections. I ask myself, “Am I making sure I’m still open for feedback?”, “Am I making sure I am walking in my students’ shoes?”, and “Am I still making sure I am valuing my students’ voices?”. I am teaching children of the descendants of Kings and Queens. No matter how many years in, I want to make sure I am honoring that lineage. So, I will continue to “check myself”, and make sure my words and actions are guided from the heart. That has worked over the years, so I’ll keep that in my book of tricks!
Still the 1st year teacher, with a little more seasoning!