I just finished my first week of teaching high school English.
This job came about quite suddenly and unexpectedly—it really did seem a “God-thing.” I learned about the opening at a small private Christian international school near us only days after I realized I needed to find a new job—not because I didn’t like my old one, it was just time. I wasn’t sure the school would even consider me, since I’ve never officially taught before, but I applied on a Friday, interviewed that Monday, and was offered the job on Tuesday.
So this week was my first of teaching 9th grade English, 10th grade English, a combined 11th/12th grade World Lit class, and a Journalism elective. I’m semi-conscious, brain-fried, and might start hysterically laughing or burst into tears at any moment.
But I’m thankful. So with my last few remaining cells of brain power, I thought I’d throw out a few things I’ve learned since I entered the world of high school teaching.
- Teachers are amazing people. Of course, I knew that already, since my amazing mom taught me. But it took only a day or two of orientation for my respect for teachers to shoot up even more. The amount of work they do, outside of class time and even before the school year starts—well, as my fiancé commented, you really have to love the job—both teaching itself and the students. And I think I just might be one of those who do love both…but let’s see if I survive this first year.
- Being a new teacher at a new school bonds you with others in the same boat. As I wandered around at orientation feeling dazed and overwhelmed and trying to figure out how I was going to remember all this information and assemble syllabi and lesson plans and somehow get my classroom into some semblance of a decently inviting learning space by Monday…it was a comfort to see other new teachers (even those who knew what they were doing far more than I) looking a bit dazed and overwhelmed too. And we gravitated toward and prayed for each other, and still are.
- Working at an international school with students from all over the world is pretty cool. When I assigned my 9th graders a paragraph describing a familiar setting using all five senses, I didn’t just get descriptions of the mountains or beach in America. I got paragraphs about a city street in Indonesia, sitting up in a tree in South Africa, and a grandparents’ farm in Korea. I love that.
- Kids can get excited about literature, even when they find it challenging. When I first asked my 11th and 12th graders what they liked or didn’t like about A Tale of Two Cities, the responses started with “Complicated.” “Long.” “Confusing.” But when I asked for words, images, characters, and themes that came to their minds about the story, or when we diagrammed the plot together (using info I’d learned about story structure from Mount Hermon and ACFW—yay for writers conferences!), their responses started flying, and they actually got excited. You should have seen the cool stuff they came up with—the whiteboard was full.
- The Lord really gives us strength to do what we didn’t think we could do. I was slightly terrified beginning this job because I really didn’t know if I could do it—keep multiple classrooms of students in order, speak loud enough for them to hear and respect me, write lesson plans, grade homework, teach them actual stuff. But despite the tiredness and the mistakes and the little sleep, I’m doing it. And I need to remember I still can only do it by the Lord’s help. Next week I could very well be at the place of I-can’t-do-this and I’m-a-failure and Someone-get-me-out-of-here. But I trust the Lord will help me through that too.
- And finally…a fourteen-year-old boy telling you he thinks your class is his favorite can make it all worthwhile. 🙂
So that’s my week! How has yours been? Anything you’ve learned? Please share!