Next week is Willa’s first day of Kindergarten, and even though she did Pre-K, it still feels pretty huge to leave our beloved preschool behind, and have the baby in full-day school. Crazy. But this post isn’t about HER first day of school.
Being a connected educator also means being a connected mama, and one of the things I hear at this time of year is discussion around the teachers our kids get assigned to, and one of the things that deflates me a bit is when someone comments about getting a young teacher, or a first time teacher, and attaches a judgment to that that is…. less than positive.
Here’s the thing – now that I’ve sent two kids to school for the first time, I am realizing how sending our new teachers to school for the first time brings up a lot of those same fears and worries. “Please let the other kids [teachers] be kind to her. Please let them see her unique traits. Please let her feel confident and brave in a scary new environment, remind her that every day is a new start, that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes are how we learn. Also please don’t let her catch lice.”
Don’t fear the new teacher. This is a person who is finally seeing realization of a dream – their OWN classroom and their OWN kids and their own bulletin boards and little cardstock name tags and their morning meeting chart paper and books they have carted from their dorm rooms to their parent’s garage to their first apartment. They have worked so hard to get here, HERE, in front of YOUR kids, that they don’t want to mess it up, and they are going to try like hell to be the best teacher ever. They aren’t jaded. Often, the new young teacher doesn’t yet have children of her own, and is giving 110% of her patience and love for kids to her classroom. She’s making a paltry salary, compared to some of the parents in her room, and to other parents, she is rich. She is going to be exhausted every single night. She’s realizing that twenty minute lunches are really only about twelve to fifteen minute lunches, once you get the kids there and then go back to retrieve them. She’s finding out that kids grow up in all kinds of situations, ones that maybe she could never have fathomed, and she goes home and tries to think of the best ways to reach all of them. She hasn’t given up on the most needy kids.
And behind her are all of us, the teachers that have watched her grow and learn as an undergrad. We get excited when they get interviews, and love hearing when they get jobs. We hope they take with them the lessons we taught – which were not just about content and methods, but about caring for kids and building those relationships – and we hope they thrive in their new roles.
Don’t cringe when you hear your kid is getting a first year teacher. Celebrate that. And maybe throw them a Target gift card or some supplies, because they are spending way too much of their own money (from a meager salary that still has to pay student loans, usually) to build their first classroom. Every teacher you’ve ever heard great things about was once a first year teacher.
The first days of school are often about letting go, letting our kids spread their wings, and just know that it’s not just the little kids spreading wings this time of year, but the grown ups, too. Don’t clip them with your doubts.
(I used the female pronoun because I have daughters – for our male teachers, they sometimes face extra scrutiny, but know that this all applies to them too, in some cases, it’s even more loaded when they might be the only male adult in a child’s life. That’s a whole other dynamic that our students walk into, willingly, because they want to make a difference for a kid. Remember that.)