One of my childhood (and current) best friends, Lori Beth, graduated in May from Blue Mountain College ready to begin her new journey. Although she wanted to work with lower elementary, she was placed in 5th-grade English! She has embraced this placement with a wonderful attitude, though. Upon the completion of her first week, she wanted to share a few things she learned.
1. Making mistakes in front of the students is gonna happen.
Unfortunately, becoming a teacher does not turn you into a superhuman who can do no wrong, (although that would be really cool). Teaching in front of a classroom of students is bound to come with some errors. Along with this, will likely come roars of laughter from the students, especially once they're going through that "too cool for school" phase. Learn to laugh along with them when you can!
2. Quickly become comfortable with admitting when you are wrong or aren't sure about something.
Owning up to your mistakes and difficulties protects you from future backlash and shows your students that you are humble. Such humility will establish credibility and trust with your students. It's much easier to confess your confusion about a topic than give them an uncertain answer only for them to call you out on a blunder. Establishing where you stand from the beginning will benefit both you and your students in the long run.
3. Teacher tired is a whole new level of tired.
From 5 o'clock alarms in the morning to the mental exhaustion of lesson planning and managing a classroom of energized kids, you will feel an exhaustion like you've never felt before. Usually a night owl? Say goodbye to that as your body will succumb to the exhaustion by 8:30 on most nights. You know what? Being that exhausted is okay and actually normal! Get used to lots of coffee and prayer to get you through those early mornings and long days!
4. TAKE DEEP BREATHS
Some days, the students will be rowdier, the day will seem longer, and nothing will go as planned. Take a break. Seriously! Give them some free time to read or work on homework. This will allow you to take a moment to breathe, compose yourself, and remember that kids are gonna be kids. After the break, get back up with confidence and start teaching once again.
5. Fifth graders are just bigger first graders.
Although they may have grown and have a better understanding of most topics, upper elementary students are still children. They may need a hug sometimes. Seeing you get upset after a tough class period still makes them feel bad. They still need gentle reminders of rules and tasks. Keep this in mind when you are frustrated by their behavior.
6. Nothing is more satisfying than finally living your lifelong dream.
Despite the headaches, extreme tiredness, and tears, seeing the small improvements children make is worth it all. All of the hours of studying and lesson planning are paid off by the eternal reward of instilling knowledge into a child. Fulfilling your passion to be a teacher is not easy, but you ARE making a difference.
Teachers and aspiring teachers, don't give up. Don't lose hope. You may not see the effects of your efforts now, but you are planting the seeds for your students' successful futures. Get some sleep, say your prayers, and keep pushing forward. Your beautiful journey to change minds and lives is just beginning.