Thursday, August 09, 2007

My First Day of Teaching

I was inspired to write this post by Tense Teacher who shared her experience on her first day of teaching.

At the beginning of August 2001, I enrolled in a teacher internship program while still employed as a "consultant" for then state senator (now Superintendent of Public Instruction) O'Connell. I had worked for O'Connell for almost four years, but decided that the whole reason for my getting into politics, the need to do good for society, wasn't best met by working in politics. It is not an experience, however, that I would trade for anything as it gave me a crystal clear picture of how things work on that level. They do not say that politics is dirty without reason!

So, I was in a flux when I enrolled myself in this program and in order to stay in the program, I needed to get employed as a teacher. As most teachers know, a lot of hiring of teaching staff takes place at the very last minute. I was no exception. I didn't want to give notice to my employer at the Capitol until I knew I had a teaching job lined up. (I am the sole provider of health insurance for my family so I couldn't chance quitting without being employed first.)

The last week of August, I was getting nervous as I hadn't gotten any phone calls for interviews. Finally the Wednesday before Labor Day week-end, I got a phone call for an interview with a principal at a middle school. Middle school was not my first choice as I had heard all kinds of horror stories about this age group. To further complicate things, I had also heard that this particular middle school had the reputation of being the worst in the district.

With trepidation, I went in for the interview. I was upfront about not having any teaching experience, but also made sure to really hit on the fact that I was a parent to three children, one of whom was going into 7th grade that year. After the interview was over, I had no idea of whether or not I would be hired.

Thursday afternoon, I received the phone call offering me a position as a 6th grade teacher at the middle school, teaching two subjects (mathematics & science). Friday was the Staff Development Day, but I was only able to attend for about two hours. I still had to tell my current boss that I was quitting without notice, something I have never, ever done in my whole professional life.

I was to start teaching Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, so after a very brief look at my classroom, I returned to work and gave notice. Then, I had three days to think about whether or not I had made the worst decision of my life.

Tuesday came. I think I maybe slept for three hours that night as I was a bundle of nerves. I arrived at my new school about an hour early, got the key to my room, and headed down to the portables.

When I got into the classroom I noticed that I had a white board, so I walked over to it to write my name. That's when I discovered that I had nothing to write with. I also did not have a teacher's desk, nothing on the walls, and obviously, no teaching experience. It was up to me to make sure that the students didn't catch onto the fact that I was a newbie. I at least knew that much!

The first bell rang and I walked to the door. My day had begun. Overall my impression of that first crop of students was a very good one. The only sour note was during the last period of the day when I heard another student overtly threaten one of his classmates. As I mentioned previously, my room had nothing in it, so the only thing I could do was to write the offending student a pass with a brief explanation of the incident and sent him on his way to the office.

About 10 minutes later, he comes back holding a piece of paper. My Vice Principal had highlighted in bright yellow the proper procedures for sending a student up on a referral. I couldn't believe it. It would have been one thing for her to have pulled me aside, handing me the paper after school got out, but to hand it to the student who was in trouble did not feel right. (I guess I should have known then that lack of administrative support is almost a given in teaching.)

After the students left, I remember thinking to myself how hard I had worked. I also remember thinking that I had finally found my path in life. I have never looked back, regretting that decision to quit my relatively plush job at the Capitol. Teaching was what I was meant to do.

image from Teacher


Miss A said...

Wow. . . what a first day!!! Thanks for sharing.

happychyck said...

Wow! That is a hectic start. You handled it so well. Impressive!

Frumteacher said...

Amazing! Your first day reads like a novel, and reminds be a bit of the book 'Teacher man' by Frank McCourt.

Repairman said...

You have to be tough to put up with the administrative goobers! Remember that ol' normal curve applies to all populations. :-)

Glad it worked out for you!

Hope this works to: You're tagged. (Yes, you did four things, but now we're on to eight other things!) ;-)

Check here for the rules:

Mrs. Bluebird said...

The thought "thrown to the wolves" keeps bouncing 'round my brain!

ms-teacher said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. If it weren't for a couple of really awesome teachers that I work with, I probably would have found work elsewhere.

Vivek Khemka said...

:) "I also remember thinking that I had finally found my path in life."

I got a similar feeling the day I walked in and addressed my first class, a group of excited 9th graders.

Whenever I think of it, I get goosebumps and I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't chosen to teach.

I'd probably be stressed & neurotic by now.

Mike Lambert said...

Thank you for teaching. You are making a real difference in the world. I'm 50 and can still remember my 2nd grade teacher Miss Carbone. Kids don't forget the great teachers.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask (and please dont take it offensively), is it the norm where u r (im presuming USA) for ppl to be hired as teachers with no schooling on it. I am from NZ and have just completed my 1st year of teaching, but here we have to go to teachers college/university for at least 3years before receiving a degree allowing us to teach.