Every classroom speaks a question. For me, my classroom is asking about cultural. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that different cultures have different “value” around the world. As a teacher at an international school in a Middle Eastern country, I daily encounter people with differing values working in the same place. The majority of students are local, while most of my colleagues are North American. Despite being taught by North American individuals, the majority of students are not native English speakers and are alien to most North American cultural norms.
For many, mid-October is pumpkin spice season; a time when apples are ripe for picking and our favorite television shows are back in full swing.
For first-year teachers, it’s quite different. They just survived a full month of school and suddenly realize things are not going as planned. They question both their commitment and their competence. Their strategies in teaching, once seen as indestructible tools, are now useless. Back to School night means playing the ultimate “fake it till you make it,” telling parents the year’s plans when they are still unclear in the new teacher’s mind.
I was that teacher last year. Those who worked with me in Action Research Group know this well. My in-person check-ins, blog posts, and reflections at that time would make an outsider question whether or not I’d make it to June.
This year, I’m a second year teacher. I have yet to feel the same type of stress, confusion, and disillusionment I did last year. Maybe I’m more prepared, or perhaps I’m wiser. Maybe both. No matter which, I know much of my newfound confidence comes from the power of observation.
Becoming a Master Teacher: Practice Self Care
I have spent my career studying the systems and experiences that make school a dangerous place for students. This led me to teaching. I felt the way I could make the most impact was to be in the classroom, working directly with students and developing creative and engaging content. I still feel this way. But this is no longer why I teach.
Today, I teach because I thoroughly enjoy going to work every day to hang out with a bunch of teenagers. I teach because sharing my love of history and sociology with others makes me giggle with joy. I teach because, on Friday, a student walked right up to me at the beginning of class and said, to my face, “You know what, Ms. Date, you are a just a grown-up nerd.” I teach because my students are the center of my world, and I love that about them.
Non-teachers may say think this sentiment is “cute”. Some teachers may call it impossible and cliché. Whatever they may think, it’s the truth.