Hello, incoming future educators!!! First off, congratulations. You are about to join a community that will lead to the most rewarding experiences of your life. To get to this moment, I assume you have been inspired by so many different things, but after a year as an educator, my entire perspective of inspiration shifted. It will sound cliché, but before you jump to conclusions hear me out.
What inspired me most this year as a corps member were my students. There are ups and downs to teaching, just like any profession, but the reason I’m lucky as an educator is because my coworkers are 5th graders. I have this picture of one of my students that will get me out of any funk. This 5th grader came to me unable to write. In all his years of education, he did not have the proper support that would offer him the chance to master writing. Whenever I am at my wits end with school, deadlines, or classroom management, I pull up this picture of my student. He is making the absolute craziest face and moments before the photo was taken, he states “I’ve lost a lot of brain cells today.” Although my students may be the reason I start graying at 23, they are also my whole world and what I am most proud of.
So, in the frustrating moments that may occur as an educator, always remember the unconditional love and admiration of your students. As much as I do for them in the 40 hours I see them a week, they have done so much more for me and will be the reason I stay inspired forever. In a common theme of what inspired me most, what I learned this year that I didn’t see coming was how much my students have to teach me. Although I highly recommend you take diligent notes and soak up every piece of information from Teach For America, professional developments, school administration, and other teachers, where you will learn the most is in your classroom from your students. Not only do they keep me up to date on all the Tik Tok trends, but they also are constantly pushing me to grow and be a more open-minded, patient person. I have watched them learn so much this year and flourish into independent and successful learners, and because of that, I have also grown tremendously. My students teach me about new experiences, traditions, points of view, and mindsets constantly. The art of stepping back and listening as a teacher can be a hard thing to do, especially when given the freedom, middle schoolers will often go wild. But I learned quickly that by showing them the responsibility they have, they step up to the plate and taught me so much about myself and education.
Coming into this year, I was so focused on learning about pedagogy, curriculum writing, and classroom management I almost missed the most unexpected and important lesson. The one that my students taught me. So, if your year is as chaotic and amazing as mine has been, I challenge you to open up your mind and learn from your students as they learn from you. As someone that was in your shoes just a year ago, the advice I have for you could fill a book. When asked to just pick one, my biggest piece of advice would be to not let the list of tasks in your mind overwhelm the joy of being a teacher. It may seem like an obvious motto, but in the craziness of it all it’s often the first thing I brush to the side.
Throughout the summer training and the first year of teaching, there is seldom a moment when you are not preparing for the next check on your to-do list. I quickly learned that I was missing the greatest part of this year and the whole reason I became a corps member with this task-oriented tunnel vision. As cheesy as it may sound, the most amazing parts of my year were not the ones I planned and scripted every moment of, it was the spontaneous interactions with unfiltered 5th graders or laughs during professional development that will forever keep me coming back. Although you definitely should meet every deadline, I truly suggest you focus on the joyful moments and share that contagious happiness with all around you.
To properly sum up my first year of teaching I would use the word “growth".” The growth that I have accomplished, with my students, my coworkers, and my fellow corp members is unmeasurable and something that I will push to continue forever. In this first year, remember to soak up all the joy and use those moments of love to support you in every moment!