Last fall when I started my first year of teaching…
I wanna go back.
When June 8th arrived and my first summer as a teacher began…
When I was offered a full-time teaching job at the middle school level, I thought this was the invitation into the International (Education) Space Station. This was me entering the education industry via backdoor and starting with an emergency permit. All I had to do was start my transition to teaching program and I could keep teaching.
To say “a lot has happened” would be a gross understatement.
I was properly diagnosed by a psychiatrist. I started taking Fluoxetine. I got married. My wife and I are expecting our first child. I added Aripiprazole to the meds list. I was offered an interim position at the University of Notre Dame and accepted it, while maintaining candidacy for the respective full-time position. I volunteered at a church camp at a new church my wife and I attend. I busted my life wide open in the best way possible and I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and redeemer.
In the last two weeks, glaringly contrasting worlds collided in my head after teaching a week-long theatre camp for 9-14 year olds at Bethel College, and running into a couple of my old students at different places around town.
At the point in the school year when I knew I wasn’t going to be returning, I had the novel idea to (stop me if you’ve heard this one) write about what I learned in my first year of teaching.
There’s that phrase again, “first year of teaching.”
I can’t seem to word it any other way than that. When you think about it, it’s quite interesting, especially considering the path that I’m on does not see me back in the classroom next month, come the beginning of the academic year. To say that it was my “first” year of teaching implies that there will be additional year of teaching. Having left the school I taught at, without achieving any progress in my transition to teaching program, and accepting employment elsewhere, returning to the classroom to teach seems less than likely. But whenever I speak about my teaching experience, I typically lead with how much I loved it.
And I did.
Most of it.
Do I enjoy the art and action and rigor of teaching? Absolutely. Are there things I would like to change? Absolutely. Are there things that I should not, cannot, and will not deal with at this point in my life? Absolutely.
From just one academic year, I planned to write a series of essays/blogs about what I learned in my first year of teaching. Would I like to return to the classroom? Eventually, maybe. Possibly high school, ideally college (which I know entails returning to the classroom as a student first, which I wholly acknowledge). But here are a few things I’ll be writing about in my First Year Teacher (#FYT) series:
- What you can learn vs what you can bring.
- The Mr. effect
- “I hate black people” (This was a statement uttered by one student to another in my of my classes, and a fight didn’t break out, so a discussion did instead).
- “Go back to where you came from (Similar to above, but earlier in the school year)
- Using your voice
- Mental health/therapy
- the use of “boy, nigger, monkey, ape, slave,” et al when referring to classmates (or anyone, really)
- respecting women
- respecting yourself
- what it means to be a man
- why every class matters
As you can see, the list of items above doesn’t include anything academic, or, more specifically, on a syllabus or standardized test. That’s what I found to be most exciting about teaching; teaching the things that matter that don’t get graded on paper, but by those around you and the character you put forth.
My first summer as a teacher has been filled with a new job that will (gladly) keep me from the classroom. Ironically, it’s at another educational institution. Unfortunately, it prevented me from taking something I always wanted as a kid but always dreaded considering my domestic circumstances as a child–summer vacation.