Reflections from a First Year Teacher

I am one of my harshest critics. Even when someone has something positive to say about me, I tend to dismiss what they’re saying. Instead, I believe they are lying. 

That’s why, when reflecting on my first year of teaching, I am going to force myself to address what I did well instead of just focusing on the negatives.

No matter how long I trained to be a teacher, I knew that until I had a classroom of my own, I would never truly know how I would act as a teacher.

Classroom Management

Did Well: One trick that I learned when I was with the Student Alliance for Equality in college was that no matter how old you are, if someone claps in a rhythm, it will catch your attention. One of the presidents of the club would clap and then have us repeat the pattern to get us to be quiet.

So, when I began doing solo teaching lessons, I would implement this method. Boy, were my juniors and seniors confused the first time I did that with them.

When I began teaching in my own class, one of the first things I taught them was that they needed to mimic my clapping pattern and get quiet. No matter which class it was, and no matter how loud they were, when I clapped, they completed the pattern. 

This was actually one of things that the administration would mention whenever they would observe my class. Now, I just have to come up with different patterns because I became predictable after a point.

Needs Improving: Consistency is my downfall. Even though I had rules in place, and I knew there needed to be consequences, there were many days where I let these things slip through. 

I would come up with so many different ways to track behavior, both good and bad, only for it to fall through after a week. I’m pretty sure my coworkers became annoyed with how often I would complain about the actions of certain students, they would tell me to write them up, and then I do nothing.

Originally, I saw this more of a failure on my part. I had been taught by others that writing students up and sending them out of the class was a sign of weakness as a teacher. However, by the time I realized this wasn’t the case, it was too late for me to have any majorly effective classroom management skills.

Student Relationships

Did Well: I made it my goal from day one to learn about my students and what they liked. I always tried to form connections with them from my own interests (anime and comics), as well as provide rewards that aligned with their interests.

Poem I asked the student to write to focus on their positive traits.

The students who I connected with the most were my artists. I cannot draw. I am a horrible artist. However, I have a great appreciation for art in any form. Whenever I saw a student doodle or draw, I would mention how much I enjoyed it or ask if I could keep it if they were planning to throw it away. Because of this, I have a folder full of artwork from the course of the school year.

Finally, I always tried to give mini life lessons to help students who seemed sad or stressed. I have had many students on the verge of crying who I needed to provide support for, and I had to decide what method would work best for that specific student.

Needs Improving: I have to remember the age of my students when I do reach out to make these connections and provide motivation. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have primarily worked with high school students. These students were in the process of applying for college or looking for jobs. It was extremely easy to make real world connections that they immediately latched onto.

However, my students are 6th graders. They are just starting middle school. While some are already planning their college future, most don’t even know what class they have next. Because of this, some of the connections I tried to make just didn’t land. I have to find other real world connections for them that are more immediate.

School Involvement

Did Well: I noticed how many students in my classes liked anime and manga, and I saw this reflected in the school environment as well. On character days, I noticed a lot of students in cosplay. 

With this in mind, I decided to create an Anime and Manga club for my school. At our first meeting, we had about 30 students come by. This was amazing. 

Me and students from Anime and Manga club.

After that initial meeting, the club would consistently have around 12 to 20 students each meeting. The number would grow larger on our movie days. 

I’m really happy that I could provide this for students. I know when I was younger, I wished that I had a place like that in school. While there was a club, it only met at the local library, which I couldn’t get to.

I am also currently working with another teacher to create a newspaper club, which is something I’m very passionate about.

Needs Improving: I…don’t really interact with a lot of adults. I stay in my pod, and that’s it. I don’t really volunteer for anything more than I have to, and any after school events for the teachers, I tend to not go.

This has made it to where I’m still confused for a student sometimes, especially on casual days, because people don’t really recognize my face.

Planning and Organization

Did Well: As many people know, I am not the most organized or proactive person. I tend to procrastinate a lot, and my room and desk are in a constant state of disorganization. 

However, I did well this year in keeping an updated schedule for my students and their parents. I also tried to keep the folders organized so that students can better find material when they are out or revisiting the work. 

Needs Improving: I still need to work on not procrastinating too much. There were many days where I had to leave home really early in order to get things printed out that I didn’t before. Some days, I would be frantically getting the Schoology folders prepped while also taking attendance.

It’s an area in my life that still needs a lot of work. There’s a reason I’m not the most consistent when it comes to the blog.

Lessons and Teaching

Did Well: This is the area that is hardest for me to find what I did well at. I feel like I was pretty average in how I taught new ideas and concepts. So, instead of wracking my brain over what this could possibly be, let me instead focus on a moment that made me extremely happy.

With my honors class, we read the book Clues to the Universe by Christina Li. The book follows two characters in alternating POV, Ro and Benji. Ro’s dad died in a car accident, and Benji’s dad just seemingly disappeared.

Near the end of the story, Benji reunites with his dad and is very angry with him. Benji doesn’t know if he wants to reconnect with his dad, but he looks over at Ro and changes his mind.

When I spoke with my students about why Benji made this decision, I got some answers, but none of them were one’s that seemed obvious to me. So, I told them that the change of heart could come from the fact that Benji has an opportunity to reconnect with his dad, when Ro doesn’t. 

Ro was the one who encouraged him to find his dad because she no longer has the chance to see or speak with hers.

When I said that, the light bulbs lit up across the room. So many students were agreeing, and then talking with their neighbors about this. That genuinely put a smile on my face.

Needs Improving: Again, I just have to make sure I remember that I’m working with 6th grade students and not high schoolers. Some of my explanations work well for my advanced students, but in many cases, I have to find myself restructuring how I explain something to them because I explained it in too complex terms.

Final Thoughts

Overall, my first year of teaching was chaotic due to the aftermath of COVID, students coming back in the classroom full time, and adjusting to a full time job. However, teaching is my passion, and no matter how stressed out I get or how weighed down I feel, I know that this is where I’m meant to be.

Here’s hoping that my second year brings new growth and development!

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