An Open Letter to First-Year Teachers

Dear first-year teachers,

We see you and your youthful exuberance bopping around campus, bounding through your days on hope, ambition, and caffeine. We cringe, or worse yet, predict that your happiness won’t make it past September and the first round of report cards or parent-teacher conferences. Still, you have determined that the weight of paperwork won’t interfere with your lesson plans, even if you have to stay up until 3am creating those finely tuned celebrations of learning. You hold your head high while the paperwork falls in delicately wafting drifts over your heads, settling on your perky desks to rest for a bit before you efficiently collect the papers and arrange them in order of importance.

We watch with indulgent pride as you create your system, your backup system, your sub-sub-backup system of organization, and wonder how you became so proficient at using the tech tools that make us swear. At some point during the year, however, we realize that we’ve been watching you behave with awesomeness, energy, and efficiency instead of helping you through the obstacles new teachers must overcome. There is no class that will prepare you for the conflicts of interest that inevitably occur when student A and test A do not match: not even if you put them in a box, not if you pair them up with socks, not if you put them on a train, or on a boat, or in a plane (Thanks, Dr. Seuss). Unfortunately, there is also no class for when students A-G not only don’t know the concept but don’t have any idea that there’s a concept worth knowing. Yet, you march on, smile fixed in place and sparklies for all.

I will let you in on a secret, first year teachers: we desperately need you. We need your enthusiasm to remind us of the joys in our jobs as much as you will unfortunately need our more experienced and sagging shoulders to cry on. You will have to learn to grapple in your own way and on your own time with how undervalued our shared profession is – and yet, how rewarding and fulfilling. I have my students read the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling every year – not just for them, but for me as well. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …..” has allowed me to keep my cool. You will find your own symbol or write your own quotespirational phrase on a post-it note to remind yourself that what you do is remarkably important.

Your fan, alwaysliz