I can’t count how many times I have heard the phrase “I feel like a first year teacher!” during this period of online home learning. This pandemic has put us all in a position where the newness of navigating teaching and learning from afar makes us feel vulnerable to a degree which we can most easily relate to our first years as educators.
So, I get it. I get why we say we feel this way. But when I started reflecting more on the statement, I had 2 thoughts:
- I wonder how new teachers feel about that statement? Do they take it as an insult? Does it make them feel less alone? Does it take away from what they are going through as first year teachers?
- Although the first few years of teaching were hard, there were a bunch of positives that came along with being new to the game. If I think back to the positives during that time, can I use them to my advantage in this place where I feel so unsure?
Let me be very clear, I literally just said to a neighbour YESTERDAY that I feel like a new teacher all over again. It is in no way meant to offend or takeaway from new teachers. You are all incredible. And I can’t imagine having my first year “taken” from me in this way. I don’t wish this on any of you. BUT… The way everything feels as though it is moving at an incredibly fast rate, the lack of confidence I have in my own abilities and in my “enoughness” in this online world and the outstanding learning in this first home learning/teaching experience takes me alllll the way back to those first few years. When I say I feel new at this again, it comes from a place of fondness and love for my early days as Miss Power (my maiden name).
You see, I jumped into this teacher role after being an educational assistant for 5 years with teachers who I soaked up every bit of goodness I could from. I went back and got my Education degree (after a lot of prompting and support from those amazing teachers and administrators) and have always felt an incredible sense of pride to be called a teacher. When I think back to those first few years? It literally was a dream come true. It still is. And I know many of you can relate and have an extreme sense of gratitude for the holy work we get to do every day.
Does that means every day is easy? Heck to the NO. But overall, when I reflect on this calling to becoming a teacher? I never regret it. I know I am meant to be in the game and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
As I prepared to write this blog I went through old pictures and cards from students and smiled and cried my whole way through them. I found myself fighting to not overthink and dwell on the hard stuff. (Ugh. And trust me when I say I fought hard…) As I prepared to write this blog, I chose NOT to focus on the overwhelmingness of those first few years. Rather, I chose to focus on my energy… what I brought to the classroom in those days, my LOVE for being called “Miss Power”. I chose NOT to focus on the mistakes (because God knows there are a ton of them, many I still feel shame about to this day…) I focused on the things I did do right during that time…. the dance breaks, the over the top projects, the vision boards we created, the visitors we invited in, the tie dye t shirts we created and wore, the contest win, the heart warming memories, the love I had for those kids, the connection…
Think back to your own beginning… like, REALLY think about it. Whether it was 8 months ago or what feels like 80 years ago, thinking back to those early years is sure to bring about some memories and emotions that have your heart. Try not to focus on the hard stuff for this moment in time. Try to close your eyes and picture the first kids that walked in and got to share that time with you. Think about the colleagues who talked you through the year from how to use the photocopier to how to write your first set of report cards. Sit with the feelings you had and the pride you might have felt in now being called a teacher…
When I think back, there are 3 main feelings that come to mind that I had as a new teacher. I hope to honour these feelings during this time of home learning. It isn’t that these feelings have been non existent in my teaching life all these years, I have just come to have a new appreciation for them in a time where everything feels new again…
- The butterflies. Those little flickers of excitement and anticipation I experienced every single DAY in that first year have all come fluttering back. I mean, I have felt them since (especially the night before school starts each year!) but certainly not as frequently as I felt them lately. Before every Google Hangout or online lesson I record with our learners right now, I feel them. Maybe it’s the newness of this all and maybe it is the yearning to see them in person, but those butterflies? They have helped me realize that I’ve still got it! They bring me comfort and excitement in realizing that the passion and the love for connecting with kids still gives me butterflies! I smile when I feel them… it’s like having the first day jitters every time we meet right now. I love it.
- This whole online/remote/emergency teaching thing? Shocking… but it is new to me. I don’t know what I am doing right now. So many of us really don’t. And that’s ok! I L O V E to learn. Love it. I love this process of having to figure things out. But what I love more right now? Getting the opportunity to admit that I don’t know. How refreshing it is to say that I don’t have all the answers. This home learning time has presented me with the opportunity to reach out to others like I probably have not done since my first few years. That vulnerability piece of asking for help has been hard for me as a “veteran” but this situation and being new to it provides me with the opportunity to soak up all I can from those going through it with me. No one expects me to know it all right now. I like that feeling. I feel like I can breathe when drop my armor and I can admit I don’t have all the answers. I am grateful to feel more connected to so many incredible educators out there since our school closure. Not a surface level “connected” because we are both teachers, but CONNECTED because I need you right now and maybe you need me and we both realize that we can learn from one another in this new situation. That connection and love of learning and figuring it all out brings me back to those first years.
- I don’t want to waste a minute of time I have with our kids right now. Period. I remember the over planning I was frequently guilty of as a new teacher. Planning alllll the things. It wasn’t that I thought we would get through it all or even that I thought it was best practice to over plan. I was just so freaking pumped to be with these kids and I just wanted to jam pack their days with all the learning I could. And maybe it was a probationary contract or that feeling that I might not get to do this forever, but I always felt like our time together was so short. So precious. I wanted to make the most of every single second! I didn’t want to sit at my desk. I didn’t want to check out. I didn’t want to give them busy work. I feel a similar sense now. No fluff. No time wasting. I want to make sure I am providing them with rich learning experiences in their home learning grid, opportunities to play and have fun and to send them all the love I can every chance I get. There is no time for complacency or checking out… I have to be all in when I get them for the limited time I do right now. Reminds me of the energy that old Miss Power seemed to be able to muster up every chance she needed it…
So when I say “I feel like I am new to teaching all over again!”, I say it with appreciation and admiration. Appreciation for just how hard it is to be brand new to something and to pour your heart and soul into it. Admiration for those who have the vulnerability and passion it takes to reach out, ask for help and to exclaim “I don’t know”. Appreciation for those memories of those kids and families that instantly bring a smile to my face. And appreciation for the fact that it won’t feel this way forever. I am harnessing all of my “Miss Power” energy into “Mrs. Mac” right now. I have to say that the feelings I have in this phase of my teaching career are hard and uncomfortable. But I am proud to say that I will persist, I will lean on those around me and that the learning that takes place during this time will make me a better teacher in the long run.
I will leave you with a poem I gave to all those kids who guided ME that first year (and you KNOW it must be special if it is printed in the Curlz font…)
I believe in you (whether you’ve been teaching for 8 months or many, many years). I believe in me. I believe that we will get through this. I believe that in the long run, this time will teach me lessons just like those first few years did. I believe that those butterflies? They will help remind us of our why and remind us of why we are still here and the power of growing and learning together. “Let that strong, beautiful spirit of yours be your guide”.