Well, the end of my first semester of teaching has come. For a while, it felt like Christmas break was eternally just out of reach. But alas, I am now experiencing the bliss that is my first Christmas break as a teacher. I will echo the sentiments I've heard already, 'I'm not sure who looks forward to Christmas break more, the teachers or the students.' My first semester of teaching has been incredibly rewarding, frustrating (at times), challenging (always), and a blast! And I've picked up on a few things over this semester.
First, it's ok to demand respect. My job is not to be my students' friend, it's to make sure they leave my classroom informed young people and with a little more knowledge than they previously possessed. While I've greatly enjoyed my first semester students, they have been very chatty. I've learned that it's ok for me to wait for them to stop talking. The lesson they learn by me waiting for them is more important than whatever aspect of history I was going to teach them.
Second, teachers have the best stories! Whether it's a demerit being ripped behind my back, a student falling asleep, or just the everyday quirks of my class - all yield some of the best and most entertaining stories ever. I think the funniest conclusion was me slamming the history textbook down on the sleeping student's desk. I seriously thought I was going to have to clean up after the student because of how fair in the air the student seemed to fly! I had the hardest time keeping a straight face, but the student hasn't fallen asleep again in my class. Mission accomplished!
Third, I truly understand that teachers have one of the most difficult jobs and are vastly underappreciated. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying teachers should have multi-million dollar contracts while professional athletes barely scrape by. Most of the time when I heard from parents this semester it was negative. The one time I got an email from a parent just thanking me for what I did, it made my week. After that every time I felt discouraged, I could go back and read the email and instantly know that I truly am making a difference. Being a teacher has made me reflect on my own educational career. I am so thankful for each and every one of my teachers that invested in my education and my ultimate success in life. Lesson here for everyone else: tell a teacher how much you appreciate them, it will make their day!
Fourth, my patience has been tested to within an inch of its life. There were days I was ready to scream, but since that is usually frowned upon, I had to keep it together. My students shouldn't be able to tell when I'm having a less than perfect day, and I must hold myself together when those days come. My whistle has been sounded numerous times when I thought I was about to lose my mind. My fellow teachers have guided me through the tricky subject of classroom management. I am not even going to claim to have a grasp on this subject, but my classroom isn't total chaos, so at least I'm not failing at it!
Fifth, I love what I do! I left college slightly unsure of where my life was headed. On one hand, I considered taking the LSAT and aspiring to law school. On the other, I considered pursuing a Master's of Education to secure a high school teaching job. And on the third, I considered finding an office job until I was sure what I wanted to do. I never could've dreamt up the job I have now. I truly enjoy teaching history, and I get excited by history being made or rediscovered. I turn into a total nerd when I get to talk about the American Revolution and the sheer guts and determination our forefathers had. I love debating whether America was an experiment and whether that experiment is a success. I love stretching my students' minds to see the connections between time periods and other knowledge in their brains. I am so blessed to be where I am right now. I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of this adventure called: first year of teaching.