Yesterday, my mentor asked if I would come to the new teacher meeting along with a few other teachers who are not first year teachers or first year teachers at the school. One activity we participated in was an activity called "The Phases of First-Year Teaching" which was adapted from The New Teacher Center. In the activity, we were suppose to read the description of the five stages of new teachers: anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, and reflection. As I looked over the description, I really thought about where I was in this continuum as well. After looking over it, my mentor asked everyone, both the new teachers as well as the old, please place themselves around the room where all five stages were located. I never saw myself in one solid stage. Maybe two years ago yes, but now, no. I began to place myself in between disillusionment and reflection; however, I thought about it and I moved to survival and reflection.
I notice a few of the teachers looked to try to figure out where I was going and why didn't I place myself in one particular category. As I told everyone there, while this is my third year of teaching, I have taught a different grade level each year. During my first year of teaching, I taught second grade for the first two weeks of the school year and moved to third grade. Last year, I taught second grade. This school year, I started out teaching only Math and Science in fourth grade, and now teach all subject areas in fourth. I am not complaining by any means; however, I am always changing. It is good because it does give me so much experience and I am very flexible person. However, I am still having to go back and relearn the subject matter for each grade level. As I also mentioned, I am a full time graduate student. There are some nights, I may not go to bed until 2:30 AM and I am up at 5:30 AM. Sometimes, I can't help, but wonder am I waking up before Jesus. I feel like I do more by 7 AM than what many do all day. Also, I am in a testing grade. The pressure of testing coupled with a test you have never seen the exact format of before is really nerve-racking. Hey at this point there about 21 or so school days until the test occurs. I am little nervous!
However, while all of those things can make me feel somewhat like I am in survival mode and just trying to make it through, I will say I am able to be very reflective. I am constantly thinking about what worked in a particular lesson throughout the day, an interaction with a student, my choice of words with colleagues, and thinking about how to develop my skill/pedagogy. I constantly think about how to better myself for my students. Even more importantly, I am thinking about already what I really want to focus on next year, especially if I work with the same grade level I am in currently. I am thinking about how I want to grow as an educator and more importantly, learner.
To make a long story short, I have been in the place before where I was in survival mode only for about 3 months during my first year of teaching and it was during the second half of the school year. I can say it is not a great place to truly be in. What I would encourage any teacher, rather new or old, is to try your best to not focus on the negative things, but also the positives. There is at least one success story each day in classroom, even when you do not think or feel like there is. What is even more important, new teachers, recognize that you are not in this by yourself. Even experienced teachers feel what you feel. This is profession in which you are not valued like you should be and it gets overwhelming at times. But again, you have to reflect. More importantly, never let yourself stay in one stage and also recognize that the spectrum for the stages of teaching are not bound to a specific period. Teachers are individuals and thus no two are the same. You may experience a different stage each day or each week. At one point in February, if you were to have asked, I would have said I was in survival and disillusionment.
At the end of the day, while you may feel great or not so great, remember why you are doing what you do. That thought often times helps you to keep going. After all, it is not about us as educators, it's about the students in which we serve.