My student teaching adviser once told me, “If you feel overwhelmed in May and want to resign, don’t do it. If you still want to quit in August – if the thrill of buying new office supplies and setting up your classroom isn’t enough – then you can quit.”
I still get giddy about the first day of school. This year, I was so excited I even matched my clothes to my bulletin board.
Seriously though, I love the fresh faces filled (mostly) with enthusiasm on the first day. I was more apprehensive than normal, because it’s scary-exciting to start at a new school. After completing two and a half weeks with the kiddos, I have lost most of the nervousness. Particularly because these kids are so sweet and welcoming.
I always write a letter to my students that tells them about me as a teacher and a person, and then they write one to me in return. It helps me learn more about them as well as diagnose their writing skills and their focus levels. I pulled out some of the better quotes from these kids’ letters.
They’re already trying to suck up to me.
“I look forward in each year at Hayah, but this year is amazing because we have some brilliant teacher bright as a light bulb one of those teacher’s is Ms. Katie.”
“I want to say WELCOME! I have a feeling you are going to be great teacher!”
“I’m excited to take Language Arts with you, Ms. Katie. And I’m positive that you’ll be an amazing teacher, and you’ll always push me to be the best in everything.”
“I really like teachers who teach right and since the first day I knew you were my teacher I felt relief.”
“I am hoping for a great year, by the way I hope your patient with me, I’m not the brightest student, but maybe with you I’ll be the brightest of ALL” (accompanied by a lovely drawing of a shining lightbulb)
“Welcome to our Hayah family! You will love it here although 99% of the time we are misbehaving, but there is something in us that makes teachers love us, sense of humor maybe.”
“Did I tell you I love your hair ;)” (This one is especially funny, because my SPCS 8th graders and I had a running joke that I never did my hair. This is the only student who wrote it, but I heard glowing compliments on my hair all day long.)
We bonded over our love of reading – mostly.
“I hope we have a wonderful two years together. And may the odds be EVER in your favor (I just had to say it!)”
In response to what she’s hoping to learn this year: “I am hoping to love reading because it benefits us.”
“Like you, I like to read. I like to call my book collection my ‘library’ because I have over 200!”
“And also if we have to read a novel it would be great if we watched the book’s movie, because movies are the new books.”
Some made me laugh…
“I had a cat who died last year, I still weep at night.”
“I am excited to be with you & I wish you can make me one of the best in Larts, please try to control me before any penalties.”
“Egypt is very crowded and dirty but it is filled with activity.”
…and others impressed me.
“I prefer to sit up front to stay attentive, but if someone needs it more than me, I can sit towards the back.”
“The idea of death makes me stumble.” This one made me catch my breath. It is so unexpected and beautiful.
I am looking forward to a year with these kiddos. I am teaching two 7th grade classes and two 8th grade classes. They are split by sex, so that will be a new challenge. My group of 8th grade boys is definitely the hardest set, and I’ve already assigned the entire class detention (but don’t worry — I gave them the chance to earn their break time back without detention. About half of them could do it.). I know that eventually, soon, I will love teaching this group of boys. I just need to teach and reteach what I expect until they do it. My 8th grade girls, on the other hand, are already amazing learners. I can’t wait to get my 8th grade boys there too.
That being said, I feel like this will be a difficult year for me. I am used to teaching a very different student body, and I thrive on the challenge of attempting to bridge the gaps that exist both in their academic performances and in their ability to trust adults, while simultaneously teaching traits like grit and resilience and self-control. I know how to teach so my students will (usually) learn in spite of stressful things like domestic abuse, gang pressure, poverty and detached parenting. Now I have a student body who can mostly perform at or above grade-level; who not only have stability, but also drivers and iPads and vacations in Switzerland. It’s a whole different ballgame.
I am not naive enough to believe that my new students live stress-free lives. To the contrary, I have already seen stressors creep up. I’m just not equipped to deal with them yet. The tricks I have stuffed up my sleeve are not nearly as effective here. This extra challenge is keeping me on my toes, which is all I can ask for as an educator — to constantly grow and be pushed to improve.
It’s scary and thrilling and crucial to be outside of my comfort zone. I feel a heightened awareness of myself and my surroundings, causing some pretty intense introspection. This is exactly why I am teaching and living in Egypt. I have been asked hundreds of times if I miss home. I miss people, but so far, that’s all. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be; there is a deep settling in my bones, a feeling that I have arrived.