Blog Post #1

I’m Sorry, What? I’m New Here.

Bryce Brothers Life in the Classroom, Mentoring, Social Issues

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I was driving a bus, about half way through my 5th run of the day, when I received the call. The familiar vibration in my pocket told me someone was attempting to reach me. No one ever called me in the middle of the day. My heart sank a little because I knew what this probably meant. The day before, I sat through what I consider to be one of the worst interviews of my life. Once I completed my run, I pulled out my phone to check for a voicemail. None. While deciding whether or not I should call back, my phone rang again. Reluctantly, I answered it expecting to hear that they had decided on another applicant. To my surprise, however, the voice on the other end of the line informed me that they would like to offer the job to me. Awestruck and confused I sat silent for a moment before I almost screamed into the phone that I would love to take the job. We exchanged a thank you and excitement and I hung up the phone having no idea what was coming next.

A month passed, and then another. I knew I had a job, a career. Everything up to this point in my life had been leading to this. But, I didn’t know what to do next. Who should I call? Where should I go? Is there paperwork to sign? Are there keys to get? I waited and waited and waited. When communication finally came it was a relief. It was real. I hadn’t made it up or dreamed it. All at once, the communication rolled in and like the breaking of a dam, it wouldn’t stop.

  • Can you go to a conference? (Um, When?)
    • In two weeks. (Uh, Where?)
    • Las Vegas. (Hmm, Yeah!)
  • HR has your contract. (Huh?)
  • Your room key is ready. (Great! What should I do with all the stuff on the wall?)
    • All the stuff in your room can be kept or thrown out. (Awesome.)
  • Make sure you log your TPPP hours. (What?)
  • IEP meeting confirmation.
  • Your mandatory three-day district training is coming up. (Three days?!)
  • District 301 day coming up. (What? 301?)
  • Meet and greet at school.
  • Here is your mentor.
  • IEP meeting confirmation.
  • Vaccinations needed or you can’t work.
  • Here is your CT. (My what?)
  • IEP meeting confirmation.
  • School Schedule.
  • Expectations for day 1.
  • IEP meeting confirmation.
  • Classroom climate plan due.
  • Yearly goals due.
  • Syllabus due.
  • IEP meeting confirmation

Sensory overload hit me well before the first day of school ever came. So many things to do and so little time. I spent the remainder of summer in my classroom hanging posters and tearing old things down. Sorting through books left by the previous teacher. Keeping what I liked and donating what I had no use for. While at the school one day, I received an email from my mentor:

“Can we meet at the school and go over when we can do regular meetings throughout the school year? I would love to see what you have done with my old room. We can meet in there if you want.”

I replied:

“Absolutely. I will be here all week in the middle of the day. Stop in at any time.”

His room? No, no, no. Not last year? Right? That couldn’t be?

As it turns out, yes, it was his room last year. I had arbitrarily added his belongings to my own or thrown them out like trash. Pictures gone. Mementos from years of teachings taking up space in a land fill. His books on the shelves of a local thrift store or mixed in with my own.

“Hi, it is so great to meet you! Welcome to the school.”

“Nice to meet you too…”

“I love what you have done with the classroom. You haven’t seen any of the things I left in here from last year have you?”

“uh… um… eh…”

Over the course of the school year, my life continued on this track. Taking a step forward. Not knowing what I was doing. Taking three steps back. Caught in an ocean of information and meetings treading water but taking in gulps. Feeling like drowning but somehow staying afloat. Confusion was my closest friend. Eventually, I made it to the end. Took a deep breath and here I am.

I’ve lost track of exactly how many times I was told, over the course of last year, not to worry because the first year is the hardest. “It gets better,” “Just wait until next year,” and, “You’ll learn more than your students,” were repeated to me on multiple occasions by just about every teacher I met. I know these sentiments were meant to be comforting, but I couldn’t help but notice just a small sense of pleasure, in the undertones, at the struggles of this budding educator. Don’t feel bad if your words of affirmation and comfort to those “first years” in your building are laced with just a small amount of joy at the fact that they are now suffering as you once suffered. We get it. We now understand. The first year is the hardest, and one does not get to proudly wear the title, “teacher” without enduring it. It’s hell week. It’s Everest. When it’s over you are inducted into a secret club that few truly understand. We are now the elite. We are now the few, the proud, the tired.

 

Bryce Brothers

Flagstaff, Arizona

I teach 12th grade English full time as well as coach Speech and Debate in the Flagstaff Unified School District. Although I am only in my second year of teaching, I consistently participate in as many professional development opportunities as I can. I love all of my students and have the best job in the world. Teaching has not always been the direction I wanted to go with my life. In fact, I tried just about everything else I was physically able to do. Eventually, fate caught up with me and teaching became my passion and purpose the first time I stepped into an education course at NAU. In addition to being a full-time teacher, I am also a husband and father.

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  • Miss Buzan

    “One does not get to proudly wear the title, “teacher” without enduring it.” This is a pretty authentic perspective of first year chaos. You did a great job capturing those emotions and recognizing that we don’t always get the satisfaction of sensible endings. This is share worthy.

  • Jaime Festa-Daigle

    I cannot imagine the communication overload that comes with new teachers in the digital age. It is so easy to add a meeting, send an email, attach a rubric filled with acronyms. And we all say, “don’t stress, you will pick it up.” But that is easier said than done.

  • Leah Clark

    I just finished my first year at a new school, in a new district, in a new state. I completely understand your frustration. However, my mentor truly helped me navigate all the new people, acronyms, and expectations. The only piece of advice I can give a new teacher is that it does get better day by day.

    • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      The part about having trashed his mentor’s old stuff– classic! I hope the relationship survived! It sounds like it did.

  • Eve Rifkin

    “The first year is the hardest, and one does not get to proudly wear the title, “teacher” without enduring it. It’s hell week. It’s Everest. When it’s over you are inducted into a secret club that few truly understand. We are now the elite. We are now the few, the proud, the tired.”

    I worry about all the teachers that never make it past year #3, in large part, because of the mythology of the “hell year” that all new teachers presumably need to endure. Why do the first years need to be so insufferable? What structures can we put in place to alleviate some of this? Are we simply buying into the idea that rites of passage are necessarily good things? I’m not convinced that the data around teacher retention is supporting that notion.

    I’m really glad that things got better for you. But I don’t believe they should ever have been that bad in the first place. Thanks for your poignant description, Bryce!

  • Sandy Merz

    This makes me think of a question to ask to veterans in any field talking about how much experience they have, “Do you have twenty years of experience or one year of experience twenty times?” It sounds like your one year will keep you growing for a while.

  • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    And you are back for more! I hope the promise bears out and it gets easier. Beware of overcommitment, though. Schools need your newbie enthusiasm, but they also need you for the long haul. Keep on truckin!