I remember my very first day as a classroom teacher in my first teaching position. I was fortunate enough to have had a fantastic, dedicated, amazing (enter any glowingly sappy description here because she was all of these things and more) cooperating teacher during my twelve-week student teaching placement, and I had no fears about teaching on my own when she missed two weeks of school due to pneumonia. The substitutes let me do my own thing, and I felt very confident and comfortable in a notoriously tough middle school.
So, when I interviewed with two districts before I graduated from college with a BA in English Literature and PA Secondary English Teaching Certificate in my hand, I felt fairly good about my chances of landing my first teaching position. Not only did my first district hire me before I graduated, but they also paid me to write curriculum over the summer before starting my new position. And, not to toot my own horn, but I had been in the top of my high school and college graduating classes, had received several writing honors in both high school and college, and received several thousand dollars in academic scholarships. Confidence in the classroom and in myself had never been a problem, neither as a student nor as a student teacher.
That all changed when I became THE TEACHER. I never subbed a day in my life, so I was not sure what it would be like to face a roomful of teens without the safety net of my cooperating teacher or one of her substitutes. That first morning, I shook for the entire forty-five minute drive to school. I hadn’t slept for one second the night before, and I hadn’t eaten for two days (for me, that was a big deal – I love to sleep and eat). I paced inside my classroom and hid from colleagues and administrators who tried to track me down and wish me luck. I looked at the class lists again and again, trying to memorize my seating chart and imagine what the faces attached to those names would look like.
When that very first morning bell rang, I was ready to puke, faint, and run away screaming all at the same time. I didn’t know what I was going to say, how I was going to earn their respect and trust, or why I had wanted to become a teacher in the first place. It wasn’t that I hadn’t prepared. I had spent weeks planning lessons and icebreaker activities and gathering advice from my new colleagues. To this day, I can’t remember who walked into my room first or what I said at any point during the school day. I merely remember thinking one thing, and the thought was stuck on Repeat for the entire day: “People are trusting me with their children? WHAT THE HELL?”
This became the first of many “What the Hell?” moments in my eleven-year teaching career, but only one of several hundred “What the Hell?” moments in my lifetime. At some point, they may all end up on this blog.
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