20 days, a reflection
There are only 20 school days left of my first year teaching.
A recent college grad and first-year teacher, uprooted from the comforts of familiarity in Boston and thrown into the most removed and rural part of Hawaii isolated in the middle of the ocean, with little sense of place and even less sense of self, this has been one of the toughest years of my life.
(I thought I had exhausted life’s allocation of “tough years” — but here I was suddenly gifted with another.)
Looking back on my childhood, there were many moments where I now realize I was forced to rise to the challenge and grow up too soon.
You know how dog years are different than human years? Perhaps it is the same thing for teaching years because I have more questions than answers.
I wonder about students who are hungry. Students who woke up to parents fighting. Students whose fathers and mothers are in jail. Students who don’t know their father or mothers at all. I wonder how they come to my classroom and still are engaged with my lesson that day.
Tonight forced me to remember my own experience growing up.
I texted my former high school swim coach. It took me paragraphs of text message to explain my thoughts , and within 5 minutes, he responds with two simple questions for me to answer, followed by two succinct steps moving forward. And suddenly I felt comfort and clarity where I had been foggy and confused all day.
I think back to how sometimes the 3-5pm swim practice with my coach was the most consistent and stable part of my life. It was dependable, reliable, and gave me confidence when other aspects of life fell short.
In truth, I don’t know that I did perfect justice by my students this year. With 20 school days left, teacher effectiveness is all I can think about.
I know most improved on their assessment scores, and I know there were several times that I could have sworn I saw glimmers and sparks in the classroom.
I know that on Wednesday, a student who was hanging out in my classroom after school told me that she needed me to stick around because everything would fall apart if I wasn’t here. She’s never been specific, but I think there’s a quiet understanding between us when she works at my desk and I quietly grade papers after school. Maybe it was the same comfort I found in the swimming pool.
I don’t even know that years from now, my students will remember anything I said or any lesson plan I taught. I actually don’t remember very much about 6th grade or 7th grade, so I won’t blame them if they don’t remember much about me. I don’t know that I’ve altered any life trajectories or inspired enough change.
But it’s my deepest hopes that, transformational or not, for some of my students, I am for them what my swim coach is still to me.
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- forn0esis said: As a fellow TFA corps member I just want to tell you congratulations on making it through your first year. You accomplished something huge. My second year has been 10 times easier (instruction wise) but I still have more questions than answers.
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