My First Year of Teaching Makes Me Cringe

By: Emily Biegel

We are back! Summer break is over and we ready to go.  There's no better way to get back on the blogging train than with a Blogapalooz-Hour challenge.  Typically we are given one topic per month, but this month we were able to revisit any of the previous topics from 2013 to present.

I chose the topic that was presented just a few weeks ago: "Write about something you've done in your life that still really makes you cringe"

I always think I might participate in the Blogapalooz Hour challenges, but then there's always a million reasons excuses why I don't.  I wish I could say that the only reason I skipped last month was that I was short on time. I mean, that's true, but I also didn't want to put in the work to think about what past actions still made me cringe. Finally, I had some quiet time and I let myself go to that place and think about what would make me cringe. And you know what it is? Basically my whole first year of teaching.

It was rough from the beginning.  I started the school year late. November 10th, the day before Veteran's Day to be exact. I was taking over the position in the middle of the second quarter and while I was thrilled to have a job, I didn't know what I was doing. I'd never taught these classes before. I'd never managed a caseload. Heck, I didn't even know where the bathroom was. It was terrifying.

I was so overwhelmed. The kids didn't necessarily care for me and I didn't really know how to relate to them. There wasn't much relationship there

I trotted out lessons that were successful during my student teaching days and much to my dismay, they didn't work as well. When they didn't work, the kids would act out and disengage with the class and the material. I then would try to use behavior management tactics that my Catholic school teachers were fond of. You're going to be shocked, but they were not effective.

I also was going through a lot of personal turmoil that year. When I got hired, I was pregnant, but no one knew. A month later I gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, Darcy, and the feelings were raw almost all the time. I was a mess and because I didn't have many relationships yet, not many people knew what was going on. I cringe at what people must have been thinking.

As the year went on I learned to ask for help. I stayed late, talked to other teachers, and attended professional development courses. I put in a lot of work. It didn't necessarily pay off right away, but by the end of the year, I had connected with a few students and teachers. Things were looking up and best of all I had a plan for how to make the next year better.

As I replay those tapes in my head, I am so happy that there isn't any real footage from that time. Luckily there aren't any teaching reality shows. YET! If there were, we would all be cringing together.

The good news is that I wasn't deterred and I've come a long way. Not to toot my own horn too much, but now I know that I'm a good teacher.  I am starting my seventh year of teaching this school year and there has been lots of growth.  I use methods that work and root all of my decisions in trying to address Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  As a result, we have very few behavior issues, many good relationships, and lots of learning.

It's a good thing that I cringe when I look back because if I thought I was doing it well back then, I would be in a heap of trouble today and I would be doing my students a disservice.

Cringe worthy moments are good. It's how we grow. With enough distance, we can even be happy they exist.

The next post will be from the students.  As the year goes on, you will see growth from them and hopefully not too many cringe worthy moments.

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