The other day, one of my colleagues brought in the “New Teachers” flyer from 2001, which listed—with photographs—every new teacher to our school district that year.
In 2001, I was 25 years old, single, and starting my first teaching job. Because my maiden name started with a B, I was also on the front page of the flyer, second photograph from the left. As I looked at my picture, I was most struck by how young I was back then, and not just in terms of age, but in terms of experience. I was one of those new teachers, bright-eyed and eager, ready to jump right in.
My first few years of teaching were a whirlwind. When I look back, I think about how much I didn’t know back then. Part of me wants to locate every student I taught during those years and apologize for not knowing what I was doing (I exaggerate, of course. . . . sorta). They say that your first students always have a special place in your teaching heart. I still remember many of those students, and every so often, I will hear through the grapevine how they are doing. Some are doctors. Others, researchers. Some others, businessmen. Several, world travelers. And yes, even a handful of teachers.
For some time, I felt like a “new” teacher, even when I had already been in the classroom for five or six years. A knot in my chest would form every Sunday afternoon as I worried about my lesson plans for the upcoming week. I prepared lessons down to the minute, unsure of what I would do if I suddenly had to improvise in front of a room of teenagers.
Over time, I learned to trust my instincts a little bit better. With more years and experience, I had a better and bigger toolbox of strategies that I could call up at a moment’s notice. Sunday afternoons were no longer filled stress-filled, and there have been a number of days when improvisation was at the center of a lesson.
So in some ways, teaching became easier. But in other ways, teaching is harder.