Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Growing Pains

Tomorrow is the 20th day of school. Yes, I counted. And I'm finally beginning to feel like we're getting into a groove. The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time... the prospect of a fresh start, the fun of getting to know the kids, getting the room "just right"... It's also an exhausting time for all of those exact same reasons. I liken it to growing pains.

This year, I'm feeling a bit more challenged because I'm not only in another new school, but I'm also teaching a new grade level (albeit the one I've wanted to teach for quite some time). I was (am) very attached to my "old" school, both the staff and students. I only taught there for two years, but we had some great ups and terrible downs that brought everyone closer.

First, I did my National Boards work there, which is beyond exhausting both physically and mentally, but also incredibly rewarding (for me, anyway). Then in April, the unthinkable happened when one of my fifth graders passed away suddenly from an accident while playing over the weekend. We grieved as a class and a school. It was a painful and difficult time for everyone, and we just all did the best we could. Then, about a month later, I learned that one of my second graders from the previous year had drowned. The thought that this could happen again, especially so quickly, was very difficult to process. I'll never forget running into a coworker right after I was told about the second child, and she just gave me the biggest bear hug. Thankfully, there were only three days left in the school year, and I had the summer to regroup. I was fortunate enough to be teaching many of the same kids the second year because I was teaching a 5/6 split. Even more than usual, those children became "my kids," and thanks to their amazing parents for sharing them.

So, at the start of this school year I found myself in this new role, excited but feeling bittersweet about the change at the same time. I admit, I felt a pang of jealousy as I watched last year's fifth graders nearly tackle the other fourth grade teacher with hugs that first week, because "my kids" weren't there, and I didn't know anybody well. As if they sensed it, I got five emails from last year's kids that week, just checking in (I told you they were great kids). That brought a smile to my face and had me wishing to be about another month into this school year, to that "magical" phase when routines, expectations, and most of all rapport with my students would be already established. I was reminded of my first year teaching, when I was participating in our district's wonderful mentor program, and a phrase came to mind... "I don't know what I don't know."

So back to the present. Twenty days in. And I'm reminded that you cannot wish yourself into that magical place. You have to WORK to make that happen. And today, I started to feel that beginning in our class. The kids are starting to share more with me and chat with me more. They're definitely feeling more comfortable. And I'm figuring out the building's idiosyncrasies a little at a time. My new coworkers have been wonderful to get to know. And most of all, the kids and I are finding our place as a classroom community. One precocious nine year told me the other day, "ya know, even though you're new, you're becoming a really good teacher." Thanks, bud, I'm tryin'.

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