Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Year Flashback Linky Party

Many of us look back on our first year of teaching with a mixture of nostalgia, horror and awe. How did we survive? What do we wish we knew then that we know now? Teaching is a journey and you learn something new every year.

So come, take a stroll down memory lane with me. Dig deep into your memory (or not so deep!) and relive that year for a few brief moments. Maybe your insight will help a brand new, first year teacher make it through.

What age group and subject were you teaching?
I was teaching ESOL Language Arts to Intermediate ELLs in grades 6-8, as well as a Newcomer ESOL Language Arts class.

What was your first classroom like?
My first classroom was actually large, but I had trouble getting enough desks. Also the cabinets and drawers were full of things left behind by the previous teacher, and the room was a mess. I made good friends with the janitor, and she took good care of my room for the 2.5 years I was at that school.

On the downside, my classroom flooded regularly. I don't know if it was a problem with the gutters, or what. I do know that when it rained, the water ran straight down my window and after a few hours of this, it started not only leaking in, but GUSHING in. I learned to keep everything off the floor after the first time. But I came in to work more than once to find water all through my classroom and out into the hall. Maintenance was aware of the issue and never did fix it.

Were you given supplies or materials?
I was not given supplies, and I started with 0 books in my classroom library. I was fortunate though, because in Charlotte, there was a non-profit that set up a free teacher store we could visit once a month for things like paper, glue, markers, binders and more. That was a lifesaver because I didn't have any money to put toward things like that since we'd just moved from out of state.

As far as teaching materials, I was given some, but much of it was outdated. I never really liked teaching from textbooks anyway, so I created most of the things I used that first year.

What was the hardest part of your first year of teaching?
Lesson planning. We had to have our lesson plans on our desks at all times so that admin could walk right in and see what we were doing in the plans. Lesson planning still took me hours, and since each group was a different grade and ELL level, I had to do three times the lesson planning of other teachers in my school who taught the same class to three different groups throughout the day. Lesson planning also took a long time because I created pretty much everything I used from scratch.

Also, since I was not very experienced with lesson planning yet, I often over- or underestimated the students' knowledge or the time an activity would take to complete. Sometimes I'd have to stop and do something totally different than what was in my lesson plan.

What was the best part of your first year of teaching?
By far, the students and families I was able to work with. I had a boy from Taiwan who lived with his aunt. She was very supportive, and even donated money to our classroom so I could buy some supplies. I also had a little girl come from Vietnam who spoke no English. She was so quiet and so small that she reminded me of a little bird. She would frequently fold origami animals for me. One morning, she came in with this beautiful paper flower. In the middle, she wrote my name. On each petal she wrote a special quote about teaching or why teachers are special. I'm sure a family member helped her with this and explained what the quotes meant in Vietnamese, but it touched my heart. My husband hung it on the back of our front door where I would see it each morning as I left to remind me why I do what I do. Some days that first year, seeing that was the only thing that motivated me to leave the house in the morning.

What do you know now that you wish you knew that first year?
Wow, there are so many things! If I had to pick one, I would say that it is to remember that you can't be everything to every student. Sometimes our students come to us needing so much that it is heartbreaking. But there's only so much we can do. Do what you can do, and leave the rest to the universe.

Another thing I'd add is get plenty of sleep! Whatever you're working on when your eyelids start to get heavy- put it aside. It will wait until tomorrow. I promise!!

Your Turn! Join the Linky!

Tell us all a little bit about your first year of teaching. Copy and paste the Q&A Session and add your own answers. Grab the "First Year Flashback" button above and add your logo into the thought bubble. Make sure to include the square "First Year Flashback" button  in your post and link it back here so others can find the linky! When your post is published, link it up and join the party below!!!

{Please don't link to your store or anywhere other than directly to your Flashback post.
 I don't want to delete links but I will if they go to stores or other content.}

Link up your post below!


  1. What a fun linky! I just scheduled my post and will link up when it goes live on Monday.

    Techie Turtle Teacher

  2. Thanks for hosting! Just linked up!

  3. This is a great idea! You should extend the time, I'd love to read more reflections.

    Literacy Spark

    1. Thanks Jessica, I did extend it by another week! Thanks for linking up!

  4. Thanks so much for this linky! I started teaching so long ago I had trouble answering the questions! But it was fun!
    Teachers Are Terrific!