My First Guest Post!

How exciting! This post was written by one of my colleagues, the extremely talented Jazmine Castanon. One of my favorite things about my school is that I get to work with two teachers that graduated with me. Ms. Castanon is an incredible asset who puts up with me always asking for advice and looking for someone to bounce ideas off of.

When I was asked to write this blog post, I was stuck. What could I possibly write about that could help current or prospective first year teachers? I could write this from an optimistic viewpoint and blab on and on about how teaching is my calling and how I will reach every single child I teach, showing them how applicable and relevant Algebra 2 is in the real world. A difficult task? Absolutely! Impossible? No. On the other hand, I could write this from a cynical viewpoint and discuss how hard and tiring teaching has been up until this point. And the grading? Do not even get me started on the ever present need to grade. Since neither of these will be much use to you, dear reader, I will be honest and share three things from my first year teaching.

Advice #1: Mistakes make us human. As a teacher I’ve learned being a perfectionist is not only impractical but will LITERALLY drive you insane in the classroom. It seems to be in our nature to have everything go our way. In a perfect world, my students would come in with all their materials, pencils sharpened (hell I’ll even take an unsharpened pencil at this point), minds ready and eager to learn, and would participate and thoroughly enjoy the project I spend hours planning. The reality is, not every pencil will be sharpened. There will always be a student who thinks my lesson is crap, regardless of the precious time I put into it. I will most definitely make that typo in that assignment, and because I am human, I will teach the kids something wrong. These mistakes and imperfections used to leave me feeling empty, worn out, or upset (yes, even the pencils). Here’s the thing though, these mistakes are normal. We even encourage these mistakes in our students. When a student goes up to the board and prefaces their explanation with “I’m probably wrong,” I always reassure them that mistakes are good. We learn from them. How am I, or you dear reader, any different? Just as we teach our kids mistakes are valued because we perfect those imperfections or fix those misconceptions, we must internalize that same idea. Yes, you will make mistakes. You will plan projects that bomb. You will mess up. The key is to not dwell on those mistakes, but rather see them as a beautiful learning opportunity. Having the ability to do this, make mistakes and try something different in your classroom, without the overwhelming fear of failure is truly amazing.

Advice #2: Rest. Please Please Please make sure you give yourself the rest you deserve. I won’t go on a tangent about why you deserve the rest, I’ll save that for Advice #3. Rest is necessary, though. I tried that whole: prep after work, eat, prep more, shower, grade, and then sleep a bit. I don’t think I have to tell you how easy it is for teaching to take over your life. After doing this for a couple months, during student teaching, my body and mind were a wreck. The breaking point came one day when I told my kids “Happy Friday!” On a Wednesday, and “Happy Thursday” two days later. Sleep and leisure time are so so so crucial. You need to give your mind and body a break from work. You need time to enjoy life, friends, and family. Go out and watch a cheesy rom com. Try making that recipe from pinterest that is gathering dust along with all those other pins. Go shopping. Heck read a book, watch netflix, or sleep all day if that’s what you need. Bare minimum, give yourself one solid day of rest, believe me it will not only give you something to look forward to, it will also keep you sane. For me, it started by helping me realize what day of the week we were on.

Advice #3: Remember, you are a teacher. You are flipping awesome and you are doing this very special thing called teaching that not everyone has the privilege or capability of doing. As much as people will bash on teaching or complain about how overworked teachers are, only you know your profession. Only you have the opportunity to be that positive role model some of these kids are lacking at home. Only you get the chance to form a unique bond with a student whom you once called your “challenge student.” Only you get to help these kids grow in and outside of the classroom. Only you have the ability to present something different every single day and create unique and engaging lessons. As cheesy as all of this sounds, it’s true. We are teachers and we are AMAZING. disclaimer, coffee may be required to reach our full potential

After eight weeks of being an official teacher, I can say having an unrealistically optimistic mindset will fade (appropriate amount of optimism = thumbs up!). I can also say having a cynical mindset will make you miserable. Now let me point out, I am not being jaded by saying you will not help every single student who comes into your class, I am being realistic. Being practical and balanced is key. If you are a teacher, I do not have to tell you how awesome this job is. I may not even need to remind you that it is also not the perfect job. Mistakes will happen, sleep will be lost, and stress will occur. Engaging projects will happen, though. The kid who shot daggers at you with her eyes will bring you a flower, one day. Just remember that those mistakes will occur, get some rest, and be happy you are a teacher. Not everyone can take on this role as gracefully as us, after all.

I hope this helped some. Ms. C

Like her post? You should probably follow her twitter either way because she’s awesome.