I had a terrifying moment of uncertainty when I realized I didn’t know what I was going to do next year. It was March and I had just put in my letter of resignation. How could I have completely failed at the one thing that I was good at?
On the first day of school, I found my lesson plans for the week in my mailbox covered in red ink. New teachers were required to turn in our plans for the first week. Our mentors had told us that the expectation for them was simply a list of what we would do for the week. Our mentors were wrong. All over the plans were comments asking what activities were, chastising teambuilding activities that are generally encouraged by school administration, and reminding me that I was in school. In addition to what seemed like a hundred hurtful red comments, there was a longer note; “Stacy, these plans are unacceptable. Please correct and turn in your plans for next week.”
This first experience set the tone for the year. We are always told to ask for help, but doing it turned into constant surveillance. I was always doing something wrong. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t doing good enough. I continuously spent 10-11 hours a day at school trying to make myself better. At home, I would sit on my laptop and type out extensive lesson plans and attempt to catch up on the ever growing amount of grading, data monitoring, and hoops that I was asked to jump through. As someone who didn’t cry often, I found myself in tears more days of the week than not.
When I walked into my principal’s office to turn in my letter of resignation, she asked me what I thought I would do next year. It was then that I realized, I had absolutely no idea. Walking into that meeting, I had continually told myself that I would stay strong. I couldn’t when I finally had my big realization. Through my sobs, I blurted out that I wasn’t sure, but I wouldn’t be teaching. At that moment this woman started crying too, she apologized and told me that I couldn’t stop teaching. She went on to explain that even though the school that I was at then wasn’t a good fit, that I would find a good place for me. She promised to write me a recommendation and to do anything she could to help me in the future.
While walking out of the meeting and attempting to wipe the running mascara off of my face, I remember feeling so incredibly confused. All year I was told that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t doing things right, and I wasn’t helping my students to succeed. How could it be that she thought that maybe the school wasn’t a good fit? Why hadn’t I heard anything about this until now?
Head held high, somehow I finished out my first year of teaching. If it wasn’t for my two amazing mentors, my family, and friends who supported me every step of the way; I think that I would have quit halfway through the year.
Now I was unemployed, living in an apartment in Arlington that I couldn’t afford, and so confused about what to do next. My support system constantly assured me that I was a good teacher, that I needed to put myself out there and find another teaching job, and that I could do this. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure. I spent the first part of the summer constantly putting off the job applications that I knew I needed to fill out. Finally, I realized that my rent wasn’t going to pay itself and started sending cover letters and resumes to principals. Somehow, I got a call from a wonderful principal and went in for an interview. I signed my contract the first day of new teacher training.
I was extremely apprehensive about the possibility of this year turning into a repeat of last. I have to be honest, I don’t know that I could have handled it. Slowly but surely, the months rolled by and nothing bad happened. In fact, good things kept happening. Colleagues recognized the good things that I was doing in my classroom, my principal and other teachers looked forward to hearing my ideas, I was asked to give a professional development to teachers on a workshop that I had attended. I kept wondering when something was going to go terribly wrong and the shenanigan was going to be up, but it never happened. There were some bumps in the road, but the horrible repeat of my first year never happened. The thing is, I was a good teacher all along. I had been working in a school with a leader and a climate that wasn’t a good fit.
My first year of teaching was terrible, but I wouldn’t trade it. Whether you are a teacher or not, I learned some valuable tips that could help anyone in the workforce. The main thing that I learned is that if you fail, try again. Don’t let a lack of original success be your reason to give up on your dream.
Now that I have finished my second year, I go into my third ready to continue to make myself a better teacher each day. It’s still weird to receive compliments and I still have the slight thought in the back of my mind that something is going to go wrong, but I know that whatever happens, I made the right career choice. I’m glad that I took the leap and followed my dreams.