I thought I knew, but I had no idea…

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 06 2010

My first day as a first year teacher…

You’ve probably guessed that since it has been almost 2 weeks since I have blogged that I probably have been pretty busy. Busy doesn’t even begin to describe it. Here is a typically day in my life now: wake up at 4:45am to shower and get ready, head out the door around 6am with a red bull in hand to arrive at school at 6:15- an hour and 15 minutes before my students get there. Then I teach all day on my feet for 7 hours–no breaks, I eat lunch with my kids and I have meetings during their specials. Even though my kids leave at about 2pm I stay until about 7pm–yes the custodians and I have become very good friends :) If I don’t have meetings/workshops at night I usually come home and start planning for the next day, grading, etc trying to stay at least caught up although I inevitably always feel behind.  Then I try to get to bed around 12am to do it all over again the next day (hence the redbull in the morning). So now that’s out in the open– let me get to the best part, my kids :)

Day 1:

I arrived to school at 6:15am anxious for my first real day as a teacher. I picked up my roster in the office and suddenly realized that my enrollment had gone from 26 students to now 28.  I quickly rushed to my room to rearrange and make sure I had enough desks and cubbies for all those little bodies. I ran through my plans over and over to make sure that I knew what I was doing once I actually had all of them in my possession. At around 7am a voice came over the loudspeaker and announced that students would be coming to class earlier today, which meant they were coming now. I quickly stuffed my students letters into envelopes, put them in my basket, and hit play on the cd player so that pomp and circumstance came on and lined up at the door to greet my students. The theme for my classroom is collegiate scholars. While most teachers have cutesy little bumble bees and monkeys outside of their classrooms to welcome students, I have graduation caps. Each graduation cap says a student’s name and “Class of 2019!” The truth is that the graduation rate in Charlotte is only about 60% so I’m making sure that NONE of my students fall into that 40% which is honestly even higher for my kids because they live in poverty.

The first student to come in was Jamal, he was a car rider so he came with his mother. I welcomed him to the class and handed him his letter from me. I chatted with his mother for a few minutes and then she gave him a hug and a kiss and left. I could see that it was hard for her that her son was starting the 4th grade. He was beginning to act like he was “too old” for public displays of affection. I quickly realized that 4th grade is a transitional age for these kids, many of them go from being 9 to 10 and in this day in time 10 is actually a lot older than it use to be–especially again for kids of poverty who aren’t as sheltered as their more affluent peers.

More students started to come in as the breakfast crew was released from the cafeteria. I had been told by many teachers not to smile on the first day or even the first month, just to make sure your students know that you mean business. As completely opposite from my personality that this is, I did a pretty good job of staying neutral. I greeted each student at the door with a simple “Welcome”, handed them their letter, told them to sit down, read their letter and begin their work at their desk.  Once I had all of my students in class working diligently on the 5 page survey I had them fill out (I was told to give way more work than they could possibly finish the first day just to make sure you didn’t panic if a kid said they were done and you had nothing else planned) I greeted the whole class and explained what 4th grade collegiate and collegiate scholars meant. I told them that they were all specially selected to be in this class because all of them were going to college. Some of their little faces lit up and others looked confused, like no one had ever told them they were smart or had a shot at college. I also explained to them that even though they are in the 4th grade, every single grade matters if they want to get into college. I told them I had to work hard in elementary, middle, and high school to be able to go to college. Afterwards, we practiced procedures pretty much all morning long–how to come into class, how to use the bathroom, how to check out pencils, how to line up and walk in a line.

I am not the most punctual person in the world (sorry TFA) and everything I planned took WAY longer to actually do. Before I knew it we were late to lunch, I quickly rushed my class down to the cafeteria but forgot where we were actually suppose to sit. Luckily teachers were standing in the cafeteria with the seating chart so I ran over to find out. I was terrified of letting my kids know that I actually had no idea what I was doing. Once I found the table I had to again run up to the lunch line to make sure everyone knew their lunch number since all but 1 of my kids are on free or reduced lunch. I was scrambling through the cards as the students came to the check out. I was thankful for my 1st grade teacher who taught us Spanish numbers 1-10 because I was able to tell my newcomer who spoke hardly any English, what his number was in Spanish–go me!After I got all of my kids seated and things were starting to calm down, a lunch assistance notified me that I had to leave in 5 minutes because the 2nd graders would be coming to sit at our table. My kids had literally just sat down to eat. I panicked and rushed the kids through lunch telling them the faster we finish the more recess time we could have. Any bribe that has to do with recess kids are sold!

Once we got to recess the kids asked me where our equipment was–apparently I was suppose to supply any recess equipment but no one mentioned this to me. I told my kids that didn’t know I had to bring anything so today we were just going to hang out on the blacktop. I chatted with the other 4th grade teachers and told them I felt like the most boring teacher in the world because all we had done was procedures all morning. They reassured me that it was normal. After recess I had about an hour and a half left with my kids. Typically my kids would go to math after recess but the new 4th grade teacher who was just hired was not going to start until the following week. Instead I read a book called “Math Curse”, thanks to my grandmother who gave it to me for 10th birthday :) , handed out school forms and agendas, and practiced dismissal procedures until it was time for them to go.

Day 1 was more exhausting than it sounds now and maybe that’s because I was literally too exhausted to do anything let alone blog after the first day and maybe some of the authenticity was lost. But what I do remember is that I wore heels which was the first big mistake, I had no idea what I was doing logistically because the school didn’t bother to tell me things I thought would be important to tell a new teacher, and I was on my feet for 7 hours straight with no breaks which I was not use to. I came home and every muscle in my body was sore and I was mentally burned out.

Despite it all, I did in fact love my children and that’s all that really matters.
(more about my kids to come!- They really are the best part!)

One Response

  1. margaret valsechi

    I am so proud of you Jessica, it only takes one good teacher to plant the seed and telling your students that they will go to college is planting that seed. I look forward to reading you blog and I know you are going to have a wonderful year with your students.
    Love ya Aunt Mags

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About this Blog

Bottom Line: Failure Is Not An Option

Region
Charlotte
Grade
Elementary School
Subject
Elementary Education

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