Reflecting on My First Year as a K-12 Teacher
I remember my first day as a teacher just like it was yesterday. I was given a fifth-grade class by the principal, Dr. Bettye McDaniel. During a school-wide assembly, I was told to call out the names of my homeroom students over a megaphone. I then escorted them to my room and proceeded to give them a speech about myself, followed by a lecture about classroom rules and procedures. The first day went by without a hitch.
The problems began the following week when I attempted to make use of the classroom management theories and behavioral modification techniques that I’d learned in college. Not missing a beat, the students quickly discovered that I was not adequately prepared to handle them. This was because 85 percent of the textbook theories had no real-life application.
As a new teacher, I was reluctant to ask my teacher-mentor, Mrs. Christmas, for help. To my surprise, she enthusiastically offered a lot of sound advice and a multitude of tips. In addition to seeking the expertise of my mentor, I began to watch how Mrs. Reese, a fellow fifth-grade teacher and a veteran of our district, ran her classroom. The students who gave me problems were perfect angels in her class. She was a confident, poised, and excellent disciplinarian. Her students knew exactly what was expected of them at all times, and I longed to be like her.
Determined to make a difference in the lives of children, I spent my summer studying and researching strategies for educating modern K-12 students. By the following fall, my teaching delivery had greatly improved, and I had become one of the strongest classroom managers at my school. My colleagues frequently commented on how well behaved my students were. I owed a great deal of my success to believing that all youth, regardless of their backgrounds, can learn.
I began writing the techniques that I had discovered into a notebook for future reference; by the end of my third year, I found that I had over 120 pages of notes. Although I had been employing these techniques and discoveries in my classroom for three years, I didn’t have empirical evidence to prove that they worked or the time to conduct research studies. I began to compile a portfolio of studies conducted by researchers who corroborated my research. Long story short, this information became the foundation for my website, The Edvocate.
If you are an educator, what was your first year like?