A Schoolteacher's Musings

Second Year of Teaching – the Year They Became My Family

At long last, I’m sitting on my couch at 7:31pm, gazing out the window and barely believing that I don’t have a stack of essays to grade or plans for the next day to type out. I’m done. I did it. I successfully completed my second year of teaching.

Many people have asked if the second year of teaching was easier than the first. In some ways, yes. But in so many others, no.

I knew myself as a teacher better – I knew what my own expectations were, and [I hope] my classroom management was much calmer. I had more than 15 hours to prepare my classroom this year (!), and I had more training on the curriculum that I was supposed to teach. So in those aspects, the year was much more fluid.

On the other hand, I now knew how much I DIDN’T know as a teacher, and my personal expectations for myself were often crushing. I knew where I *should* be, knew I wasn’t there yet, and felt agonized by the gap. I was also the one in charge of teaching English Language Arts to between 48 and 52 fifth-graders (depends on which part of the year it was!) – and I had 33 assessments to give each trimester to each student. Talk about a frightening amount of grading! I did learn much about taking my dear friends and family up on their offers to help me grade (couldn’t have done it without you, Mom, Katelyn, Jaclyn, Christina, and anyone else who helped me this year!). I also learned some tricks about more strategically planning and managing my grading/giving of assessments, though it will always be my least favorite part of teaching.

Yet overall, there was a beauty to this special group of kids I got to call my homeroom, and I discovered it at the end of the year in a couple different ways. One instance was when we were playing a game called “Families,” wherein everyone writes down a name on a piece of paper, and then you have to go around and guess who wrote down each name. When you guess correctly, you get that person to join your “family.” At one point, the kids were arguing [in a good-natured way] about who would end up on whose family, but then one student said, “We’re all family in this class, anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

Not only did that melt my heart, but so did another comment from another student around the same time after one of our read-aloud times.

Read-alouds this year were my absolute favorite part of the day. We’d come back from lunch and sit at the carpet and my kids would sit captivated as I read out loud to them. This particular group of kids loved read-alouds so much, they begged for them to continue, and eagerly got into the stories and the discussions about them. At the end of the year, our last book (which we didn’t actually finish, unfortunately) was The Mysterious Benedict Society. Two of my favorite quotes from it are as follows:

“Is this what family is like: the feeling that everyone’s connected, that with one piece missing, the whole thing’s broken?”

and

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”

After I read that to them, we had a discussion where students shared examples from their lives of friends that were so close they considered them to be family. When we had finished our read-aloud time and had gotten up to transition into the next thing, one little girl came up to me and quietly said, “I just want you to know that I think of this class as my family.”

She couldn’t have articulated it better. And it was exactly what I’d always hoped for – to create a classroom that felt so safe, so loving and welcoming, so homey that students felt like they were part of a family. Not only that, but I realized what Mr. Benedict realized in the story. He had always wanted a family as a child, but when he grew up, he came to see that his family could be the people he became closest to. I, too, always longed for a family of my own – and while I adore the one I grew up in, I wanted kids of my own to laugh and play with and impart my love of learning, books, and ideas to.

That could still happen in my future, but I came to see this year that I need to stop pining for something in the future that may or may not happen – and start being grateful for the other families that God has given me in the now. The twenty-four kids who loved me, who hugged me tight on the last day of school, who were so quick to bring me flowers or stuffed animals or notes – the kids who made me laugh till I cried, who came up with better ideas than I did, who loved reading and playing games and encouraging one another – those kids were my family this year. And when I thought about summer rapidly approaching, I actually got sad about not getting to see them every day.

Family is a beautiful thing. I love that God created family and that He created us to want to belong to a family. I’m so thankful that I was raised in a strong one, and because of that, it’s my heart’s desire to keep on creating that environment with whatever kids He gives me – biological ones or classroom ones.

Because just like the sixth-graders sang at their promotion – we’re going to count on each other and make this place our home. And it’s going to be unforgettable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s