Sunday, May 25, 2014

Initial Reflections of First Year Teaching: On Confidence

Well, this year just happened to me. It definitely wasn't how I expected it to be, but I think I learned a lot. Now if I can somehow articulate... everything.

I haven't touched my blog in literally six months, and that feels very strange to me. I suppose I have reflected just the minimal amount possible, not delving deep into thought once in all that time. And what a sad feeling that is, but I can't be too hard on myself. This was my first year teaching, after all, and I know that I was in survival mode for most of it. Not only was it my first year, but... well, I guess it needs to be said--I worked for a terrible school. One of the things I've come to realize as a young adult is that we aren't actually as put together as we seem to children. We're all just doing the best that we possibly can, winging it most of the time. But that being said, the private "school" I just spent ten months of my life at is honestly just masquerading as a place of education, causing me to make everything up as I went along, forced to reinvent the wheel many times over. It was definitely a learning experience, and I'm grateful for it to be sure, but, oh my goodness, was it stressful! I may want to explore this more when I'm feeling less bitter, because I think I can work some great ideas about what a school needs to be successful out of it, and that would be useful, particularly, because I like to consider thoughts about small, private schools. It's probably all in the hands of administration, really. But come now, enough on that for the moment, and we'll revisit it later. The point is that my thoughts and I have a lot of catching up to do while I decompress from the year and work out what I can make of it.

The first thing that comes to mind when I consider how I have changed from August is that I certainly feel more confident. Though I've been working and volunteering in schools since 2009, even spending a year working full time in a daycare, I could never really say that I felt comfortable with children. I suppose I was still working out what my role was and what it all meant, even up to my first day, no, even through my first few months, of actual teaching. I was uncomfortable speaking, giving lessons, even just standing. I remember thinking to myself, "How does one stand when one is in front of children? The feet go..? And the hands..? Clasped..?" I could never get it right. A direct sign of lack of confidence. I know that for some people, and I'm thinking specifically now of some classmates while I was in college, everything seemed to come naturally. They stood in front of the children and everything just fell into place. That was never me. I was always second guessing myself, stumbling in my speech and awkward.

And to defeat, it took day after day, hour after hour, of just being. First, it was the praxis, the swallowing my fear and awkwardness and just getting up there, speaking when I wasn't sure I had the right words and doing when I wasn't sure I was ready. Turns out that 180 seven-hours days is a lot when it comes to honing skills. Second, honestly, was probably, again, the terrible administration I had to put up with. At first I meekly followed instruction, doing my best to complete what was expected of me, but when faced with challenges, I found myself standing up for the decisions I was making in the classroom. "I am a good teacher, I am doing the right things, and here is my justification as to why," I had to declare many times. Apparently defending your actions to critics day in and day out does wonders for confidence, too.

And here I am today, far from the girl I was. The puzzle pieces of the past fit together to make the present, and every bit of experience makes me who I am now. I am grateful for the struggles of this year and how they only make me stronger.

I have declined signing next year's contract with this school. If nothing changes, it will undoubtedly crumble until nothing is left. It's unfortunate, but I did as much as I could for them. Perhaps in some ways I failed, but I can't allow them to take me down with the ship. There are better things in store for me, and I'm just getting started. Yesterday I hugged 14 third-graders good bye and with that, I started on my next path. Next year I'll be teaching English at a small, rural high school with an administration that appreciates my innovation and enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to reflecting more on this year, but, also, I'm ecstatic to see what kind of amazing things I can bring to the future.