My first year teaching was an experience that I would mostly rather forget. It was a really difficult time in my life. We had recently moved to a new area, I was commuting one hour one way to work, and I was teaching 7-9 ESL, something that I felt I had no idea how to do. Everyday was a battle to keep my head above water and not give in.
My second year of teaching was a similar tale without the long commute. I was so fortunate to get a job at Rogers High School, where the commute was shorter and there were no seventh graders. (I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on here that seventh grade might be my least favorite time. The hormones, people. They’re just uncontrollable.) My new job also meant teaching something new: oral communication. I’ve always been pretty good at oral communication, so I thought that would be a breeze. It wasn’t, but I can say that I learned a lot.
All this background is to say, sometimes you see people that you haven’t seen in a while and they say something that makes it all worthwhile. On Sunday I went to Barnes and Noble to see my friend who is also a teacher (Sunday afternoon is our only free time, because, you know, teachers) and when we were leaving I saw two of my former students from Rogers High School. One was in my Pre-AP English I class and one was in my oral comm class. They both told me that I had had an impact on them. They both took time (they’re seniors now, omg.) out of their afternoon hang out time to tell me that. I walked out of that Barnes and Noble with a smile on my face and a few tears in my eyes.
I felt like I was just keeping my head barely above water both my first and second year of teaching. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right, and I definitely felt that I was not making an impact. I was wrong. I hope that as I move through my teaching career that teaching the content becomes easier and easier. That I get better and better. I also hope that I can remember that the content is secondary to the young people that I am trying to inspire and help grow as they become people who will go on to make an impact on others.
Teaching isn’t always easy, and Nathan has always reminded me that the payoff for teachers takes a while. That you have to wait to hear back from those that you made a difference for. My first set of ninth graders from Rogers is graduating this year. I’m already seeing the payoff. I’m already proud. And, needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t give up all those times that it got hard and I didn’t know how to move forward.