By Ashley Fahey – Throughout this column, I have been given the chance to reflect upon my experiences as a first year teacher, to give advice and to generally vent through blithe writing. As I thought about what to write as my “farewell” post, I always reflected on the origins of my career. I still think that I am extraordinarily lucky. I applied to two openings in another state, received two interview offers, and one job offer – in my degree area, during an economic recession, and over a month before graduation. I have frequently written about wanting to have changed the world through my teaching strategies.
But the thing that I learned (or realized) the most when I first started teaching was that I didn’t know anything.
I clearly remember the first day of school (a Thursday) at 7:55am and having the initial stages of a panic attack. What was I going to do with 130 9th graders that day? Be it, I had outlines in front of me, but I felt like I was being thrown to the sharks that first day. My teacher friends have agreed with me, and we have all discussed how in most other jobs, you have an initial training period before you’re given more independent projects (this was then confirmed by my father-in-law, who works at a well-known national insurance company). But, in teaching, you are totally immersed in what is to become your career and vocation. Ironically, the best way to learn something is by completely immersing yourself within that topic, whether its by learning a foreign language (by going to the country) or by taking on six sections of 9th grade science with years of training.
Marquette prepared me with years of training that gave me the courage and confidence to get through that first day, first full week, first full month and so on. And on the last day of school, when my students nominated me to make a half-court shot (which I, of course, missed); I felt like I had made an impact in some way on every single one of my students. I looked at them and realized how much we had all matured and grown up over the 2010-2011 school year and my chest swelled with pride. While they move on to the high school building, I will stay back and prepare next year’s 9th graders and make some sort of impact on them and every 9th grade class after that.
So, future first year teachers, good luck on your own journey. Don’t forget to take time to reflect, time off for some mental breaks, and always remember why you decided to become a teacher. I’m off to become a second year teacher!
Have a great summer!