September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: Part Eight

Posted: Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

As the year draws to a close, I decided to ask Sara and Ellen the kinds of questions that every teacher educator asks their students at the end of the year. I wanted them to reflect on their first year of teaching with an eye to some of the successes that they had. At this time of year, new teachers are often caught up in testing, pink slips, and exhaustion. It has been my experience that they lose site of the reasons that they went into this business in the first place. I think Sara and Ellen’s responses hold a lot of interest for those of you who have been following their development over the year and for those of us who wish them the best in years 2-30. I don’t think anyone could sum up the impact that teachers have on others better than Ellen has in her last comment.

Here are the questions I asked and their responses:

1) What was the most valuable thing you learned during your first year of teaching?

Sara: I learned more about my own teaching style and what policies I want to have in place in my own classroom. Student teaching is the time to get ideas and enforce the policies of your cooperating teacher and, this year, you don’t have that person watching over your shoulder ready to catch you if you make a mistake. I was able to develop my own routine as a teacher on my own and I think it is something that I will be able to develop further every year.

Ellen: The most valuable thing I learned this year is how to balance all of the responsibilities of teaching. BTSA did prove to be a hard assignment because I wanted to spend quality time completing assignments, and truly reflecting on my teaching practices. However, this got in the way of spending quality time planning lessons and incorporating valuable activities into them. Also, the balance between covering all the material that the state of California would like you to and truly teaching advanced skills such as critical thinking and problem solving proved to be difficult. I cannot wait to have the summer to prepare lessons that can achieve both of these important goals in education.

2) If you could do this year over again, what would you do differently?

Sara: I definitely had a few students this year that really made me stress, but now I have a much better grasp as to how to deal with those types of students. This entire year was a learning process, and I don’t think I would change any of it. Instead, I plan to implement everything I have learned into my classroom next year.

Ellen: As far as management and discipline, I have worked out a good system to deal with tardies/behavior issues, etc. It took a semester to work it out due to finding things that I truly care about (late work, tardies, absences, etc.) I am excited to implement this at the beginning of the year and see what a difference it will make.

3) What recommendations can you make to students who are completing their credential programs this spring and heading out into their own classrooms for the first time in the fall?

Sara: Ask as many questions as you can, even if you think they are silly questions. Wherever you end up, the staff will understand that you have a lot of questions, and from my experience, they will be helpful in answering them. However, they might forget to tell you important information because they assume everyone knows what they are talking about. If you don’t know, just ask. Also, make sure to plan! Some teachers are able to just walk into a classroom and come up with a lesson plan off the top of their head. As a first year teacher, you won’t be able to do that and you will be very busy, so make sure you are at least two days ahead of lesson plans, and a lot of your stress could be cut in half.

Ellen: I think it is important for students entering education to align their practices with the teaching styles and rules of the school they are entering. If they have collaborative assessments make sure to see them beforehand if possible. Also, try to find out all the “tricks” before school starts, such as: emergency practices/drills information, staff meeting norms, teachers around you that you can trust, and some one in the administration building you feel comfortable talking with about any issues you might be having (with students, etc). This information really came in handy this year during drills and meetings for me.

4) What was one memorable moment from this past year that you will carry with you next year and into the future?

Sara: The most important thing to me is to build a good relationship with my students. I am not afraid to show my personality when I am teaching and allow my students to really know who I am. My students know that I am a nerd at heart, I hate country music, and I love NASCAR. Because of this, students feel more comfortable with me. I have had students tell me that they enjoy my class because I’m normal to them. If they need someone to talk to, they feel comfortable coming to me. Because my students really know me, I have a much better understanding of them because they aren’t afraid to show who they are in my classroom. Getting this positive feedback from my students this year made me realize that while it is important to me to let my students see my personality, it is also important to the students.

Ellen: I have a strict policy about students using appropriate language that is respectful to all subcultures. Because of the area in which I teach, this was a difficult policy with which to follow through. I am very sensitive to the ever-popular, yet horrible student sayings such as “that’s gay” and the use of the “N” word. However, each time [I hear it] I have a system in place to deal with such language. So, a few weeks ago, a very quiet student who hasn’t really talked to me much approached me after class. She exclaimed, “You are the first person to ever care when students say ‘that’s gay’. I so appreciate that. It makes me think you care about everyone’s feelings.” and hugged me. I never thought that my actions on these sayings would affect someone that much. So I learned you never know who you affect by what you say/do or allow in your classroom. This was a very valuable lesson for me about small things you can do to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president-elect.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

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