New Teacher Trials

As I progress further in my young teaching career I have begun to recognize more challenges than anticipated, making the journey rougher than I had hoped. As Ali mentioned to me the other day, “You are learning too. Obviously you are very intelligent and know a lot of stuff. But now your at that point where it’s starting to dawn on you just how much you really don’t know and you are starting to get a little panicked.” Of course this is all true and despite having recognized this on my own to a great extent, hearing it from her really slammed it home.

I am indeed a young teacher, never mind my age and experience in the world. Even though I have taught many different things for many years, I have not been faced with the day in day out full-time grind that my current position presents. Add the fact that I had almost no preparation before jumping into the fire and I am beginning to feel rather sauted right about now. My feet are definitely showing a fine caramel color.

In some ways, I have to keep reminding myself that it is a somewhat impossible situation. I arrived in a classroom with a new curriculum, new students, little grounding in the school’s culture, and a charter to teach them something. So, I am constantly faced with the very real challenge of trying to stay a step ahead of the students, already in the swing of things, on a day to day basis. Having no idea what I was going to be teaching until I arrived puts me a bit behind in the content department.

Honestly, I have to teach some books that I either have not read, or have not read in so long, it is as if I have not read them. It is rather difficult to plan for great depth of understanding when, in some ways, I am navigating my way through the material right along with the students. Working backwards and developing overarching questions and understanding based on content I have yet to get through is an uphill struggle. Often, it is in the anticipation where I feel the most ill-prepared. I guess that makes sense given the circumstances.

Still, teaching is strange alchemy. Many of the problems I have yet to solve will be much easier the next time around. I will not always be faced with little idea of the material. Plus, there are certain things that must be taught, regardless of content. It really just comes down to lacking that universal currency that has everyone feeling overdrawn, time. Although effectively managing through scarcity is a skill needed for success in any endeavor.

Yet, the job can be extraordinarily fun at times, presenting great problems to deconstruct and solve, fascinating things to research that I may not have been familiar with from my high school experience, and some of the students are just downright entertaining human beings. Sure they are not exactly fully formed yet, still wet and misshapen with only glimmers of adulthood. But some of them have a deft touch for mixing the sophomoric with the subtle and packaging it with a razor delivery. There hasn’t been a day that has passed where I didn’t laugh, even if it sometimes is at one or more of them and secretly to myself.

Apart from the normal adolescent angst and rebellion, combined with complete resistance or apathy toward anything and everything having to do with school, they can be quite charming and interesting individuals. It is a strange irony that people who have lived long enough and are not regularly exposed to teenagers miss. Of course not every student bears these defiant inclinations. Some even seem genuinely interested in what we might be studying. I rarely expect this to happen. However, it is always pleasantly surprising, considering I have a tendency to get completely engrossed with fascination by most of the literature we read. I suppose this might have something to do with me having a passion about learning. It might even be linked to the fact that I am a teacher.

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