DearFirst Year Teaching Self,
You thought it was a mistake. They didn’t really mean to hire you. Or, they did mean to hire you because you convinced them that you knew what you were doing. You were very convincing. But you didn’t feel like you knew what you were doing. You felt like you were faking it. You sat quiet in department meetings trying to keep all of the acronyms and focus strands straight. You wrote lesson plans for kids you did not know very well and you wrote IEP goals that you thought were going to change lives. You got so nervous when you called parents, even if it was to deliver good news. You did the things that you thought a teacher was supposed to do. You wore sensible shoes and brought treats on Fridays. You waited, scared, for someone to discover your secret.
Well you were wrong. It was not a mistake.
You really did know what you were doing but you had to wait until you found your voice.
Your teacher voice. Not the voice that you thought everyone wanted to hear. It is the voice that has been there all along but needed to be convinced to come out. You learned how to get to know kids from their core, from their heart. You learned that working with kids has a huge benefit: you get to have fun and laugh and watch “ah-ha” moments and make mistakes and let your students watch how you correct them. You learned that boundaries are important but some walls have to come down to form relationships and those relationships mean more than any lesson plan or IEP goal. You will always be learning because to be a teacher you must know how to learn, push out of your comfort zone, and grow. You will always be nervous calling parents because you care so much. But you know now, because you are a parent, that parents get upset and confused because they are scared for their kids and every single one of them just wants to do what is right for their child and they will each have different ideas of what that is.
It was not a mistake, you were meant to be here. You will always feel like it’s a privilege and an incredible honor to be with students every day. You will come out of your shell. You will make mistakes, some really big ones that you will never forget. But you will learn and grow from them. You will watch some students exceed your expectations beyond your wildest dreams and you will watch some very capable students fall on their faces over and over.
Don’t ever forget what you teach. You teach students, not subjects. They will learn from you by how they feel when they are in your class, not by the assessments you give or the goals you write. You are also not alone. You have incredible colleagues and connections around the world who will share, problem-solve, and celebrate with you.
It was definitely not a mistake. Just trust that voice and listen because this is where you belong.