Education Opinion

Facing the deluge, checking the disillusion

By Jessica Shyu — September 01, 2007 3 min read
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To all the new teachers out there, I envy you. Some of you have already begun teaching for a couple weeks. Others will start this month. You are about to be inducted into a field of utmost importance where every decision you make, every word you say and every ounce of energy you put in shapes our future. You have the power to close the achievement gap and inspire leaders.

It’s a truly magical time. And at times, it can be truly painful.

For many of you, you will realize what defeat feels like after you spend 8 hours crafting a fascinating lesson on Africa only to realize that your 13-year-olds don’t even know what a continent is. And that they don’t care to find out.

(But soon, you will also realize that victory is in investing time to plan intelligently upfront and therefore avoid spending 8 hours designing one lesson plan [Hello, Backwards Design!] and that diagnostics go a long way. You’ll also be pleased to discover that it’s actually better for your students when you spend those extra 4 hours sleeping rather than cutting out laminated pictures of Africa. And you’ll soon realize that your students really do want to learn. It’s your job to prove that they can. Do not give up.)

For many of you, you will wonder if drowning feels like the unrelenting waves of ungraded assignments and administrative paperwork that keep crashing into you.

(Having never drowned, I don’t know. But it’s still pretty awful, isn’t it? But you will soon realize that tracking your students’ progress is a motivator for them. And a motivator for you to pace yourself in getting that grading done.)

For many of you, you will understand how 9-year-olds can truly hurt your feelings and make you want to cry when they call you dumb and ugly. You will understand how it feels to be helpless when “John Cena” decides to roll on the ground and neighs in the middle of class. You will understand how it feels to be scared when your students rally their peers to defy you.

(But you will soon realize that it takes a consistent management plan and strong lessons to really focus your students’ learning. And it also takes a sense of humor and a couple steps back from the classroom to remember that it’s actually pretty funny when John starts making like a horse in the middle of “Tom Sawyer”)

For many of you, you will learn what tired really feels like. You will understand how disappointment feels when only 2 parents show up for Back to School Night. You will realize what confusion and frustration truly is when the administration makes decisions that seem to go against student achievement.

(You will also soon realize what it means to be both a team player and a leader. It means collaborating with your colleagues, parents and administrators, and rallying for changes when needed. It means being a humble and respectful member of the community. It means working hard, but also having fun.)

It’ll be magical. It’ll be crushingly hard. But you are not alone – at some point or another, thousands of your colleagues-- both new and seasoned-- are feeling a similar sense of being overwhelmed, under-appreciated, and at the end of their rope. But they are also feeling the same sense of victory, relief and joy from when our work pays off and our students achieve. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and legions of students grateful for your efforts.

(You’ll also soon realize your students will express their appreciation in countless ways, like when John Cena brought in a piece of homemade frybread one morning or when he improved his reading by four grade levels. Those moments were worth every lesson-defeating neigh.)

The opinions expressed in New Terrain are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.