... but I'm NOT feeling 22, and I couldn't be more glad.
T-Swift obviously had a much different experience in her 22nd year than I did. While she spent year #22 dressing up like a hipster, keeping herself next to you, and, of course, dancing, I spent mine finishing student teaching, submitting 100,000 job applications, moving 800 miles, and jumping headfirst into my first year of teaching. I spent a lot of the year anxious and unsettled.
If you are a first-year teacher, fear not. A year can make a really big difference.
This time last year, I was totally paralyzed by the idea of having my own class (even though I shared it with a co-teacher). Although I had completed student teaching in 2 different classrooms and observed in many others, I had no idea how to go about being totally in charge. There are SO many things to think about. There are simple things like room arrangement, rules, scheduling, and organization, and also more complex concerns, like curriculum pacing, differentiation, behavior management, and dealing with the unique needs of my special ed kiddos within the regular education classroom. To top it all off, the only way to figure any of this out was in front of 31 kids who expected me to know what was going on. I made mistakes, friends, and messes.
Fast forward to this year. I know that I still have a LOT to learn. For one thing, I am starting the new year in a totally different grade level. (I was in 5th last year, and despite my request to stay in 4th or 5th I will be going to 2nd for this year- but change can be a great thing!) Even so, going into the second year is so much more exciting for me than going into the first year was. The general anxiety has subsided, and I know that if I survived last year, I can better than survive this one. I am still amped up about my job and I want very much to be good at it, so I've spent a lot of time reading other teachers' blogs and attending a couple of trainings. The same blogs overwhelmed me last year. I am now more able to take information and ideas from them without comparing myself to the "have-it-together" people I'm reading about. It's great to be starting with a sense of peace instead of insecurity.
Apologies to Taylor Swift, but I'm happy to have closed the door on 22 and glad to be feeling 23.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of my second year of teaching. It will also be my second year as a special education teacher in a full-day co-taught class. I've learned a lot of things since I began teaching, but one of the major lessons I've learned in my particular position is how to check my ego at the door.
As a special education teacher, it didn't surprise me at all when I was told that I'd be co-teaching all day. One of the major pillars of IDEA (special education legislation) is that students need to be educated in the least restrictive environment possible, which is, increasingly, the general education classroom. However, classrooms have traditionally had only one teacher, leaving students and their parents confused to find two. I should not have been surprised to find myself explained away as "the assistant," but I was. Surprised and hurt.
This year, I am lucky enough to be co-teaching with a wonderful second grade general education teacher. We both attended a co-teaching workshop in the summer. Both of our names were on the letter that informed students of their new homeroom. We wrote both names on everything in the classroom and even decided to share my afternoon hall duty to reinforce the appearance of our equality. I was so excited to begin a fresh new year, where no one viewed one of us as the "real" teacher.
We met our students and their parents one morning last week, and it didn't take long for me to realize:
Somehow, despite our careful portrayal of equality, they knew I was not the "homeroom" teacher. I have to say, I was a little crushed at first. Crushed to be asked "who I was with last year" and "what my role in the class" was.
And then I thought about it.
I was hurt because I wanted to be recognized as important, but they were asking questions because they were legitimately confused. I may be knowledgeable about inclusion, but for them it's brand new. So, I need to drop the ego and figure out how to best explain it, rather than sitting around with hurt feelings.
I haven't figured it out yet though, so this is an unresolved blog post.