Updated: Aug 12, 2020
My very first day of school as a teacher is one that will forever be ingrained in my memory. I will never forget how that day felt and went. That day was full of excitement, lots of nerves covered with a smile, a very confident front, and perfectly stapled copies of a syllabus with my new classroom number on the front, Emerson 1. I wore a black pencil skirt, a white and black floral blouse and a pair of black pumps. There are a few things about that sentence that has to make you laugh. Thought number 1: Of course a woman writer is going to tell us what she was wearing because it is part of her first day memories. That does make me wonder how many male teachers remember or cared what they wore their first day in the classroom. Thought number 2: HEELS? Yep…everyone who knows me remembers me walking the halls in heels. Would you believe, that I believe, a good pair of heels are the perfect confidence booster? Try it! Back to my first day…I walked into my first day as an educator with the most beautiful idea in my head, if I gave respect to my high school students, they would respect me back! Totally, right? Sunshine, rainbows, and confetti…stop laughing. Fifth period, my new class walks in and I am thinking, (insert bubbly and energetic voice here) “Hello, another batch of young, beautiful minds to mold. You are going to really like me by the end of my organized and perfectly planned week.” You have to imagine me saying this with the enthusiasm I teach with, like SO much excitement and energy! I am half-way through this rock-solid awesome day and I. Will. Rock. This!
I am walking up the third row of desks when I hear (the whole class hears actually) a male student say, “Man, I would like to tap that a**.” (insert screeching record player noise to my sunshine and rainbows here) Hold the confetti, what did he just say?! Is this my welcome to teaching high school? My high school was NOT like this! What have I gotten myself into?! Man, I prepared for a lot of day one scenarios, THIS WAS NOT one of them. In that moment I had a lot panic run through my head (but not my face because Theatre was one of my majors and I am at least that good). This was a test and I instantly felt like I was failing. When you think back through your time as an educator, what are your pivotal moments? What sticks out in your memory the most? This moment is one for me. It was a teaching moment. I knew in this moment that I had a lot to learn. I knew in this moment that I was going to need to adapt, quickly, or I was going to be run over. Thirteen years later I am thankful that I saw so quickly my need to adapt and was so willing to jump into figuring out how to navigate these uncharted territories. Is that not what we all do (or should do)? Adapt and re-navigate.
Everyone always asks me how I dealt with that boy on day one. I used the calm, “How Dare You” tactic. I inherited it from my mom…well, I guess maybe my mom’s mom…I call it the “pissed pew face” and I am sure you get why by just reading that. How can any kid forget that slow lean forward, while her face starts to cock sideways at a confident speed of slow death, accompanied by eyes that make you feel like you are the bullseye of a hateful dart board. The look also traveled with a raised eye-brow game that made the eyes dance with fire a little hotter and lips pushed together in a more painful way than any words that could possibly come out of them. That look! Anyway, I put on my "pissed pew face" and I leaned closer to his desk (which I realize now may have been exactly what he wanted, but the idea of not making a bigger production of this comment that could not be ignored left me with few options). Then I looked him square in the eyes and told him that his words were very offensive and unnecessary. I also said, “if I ever hear something so disrespectful come out of your mouth again to me or anyone in this class, I will be the least of your problems.” I know now that we can pick apart my words and reaction from a discipline perspective, but let’s not. I did my best on this first day with a really tough situation. Besides, my words weren’t the best thing I did with that issue…this next step was. I looked up his schedule and found a male teacher that happened to be his elective building class teacher. This man was a veteran teacher with a bulldog appeal. He had taken time to introduce himself to me during professional development and I felt very confident that he might have a better relationship with this gentleman that I currently did. When I told him about the comment this student we shared had made to me all he said was, “I will handle it.” He did handle it. That student was ticked at me for telling this special elective teacher about his comment, and silenced his inappropriate comments for the rest of my semester speech class.
He was a tough a cookie of a kid. I am sure there are a lot of reasons why he made that wildly uncomfortable statement, there are a lot of ways I could have handled it. I still think about how it could have gone and maybe how much better my semester with him could have been if I had dealt with this one interaction differently. I did figure out a lot about this kiddo and worked hard to make a connection with him that would make him care about my class. However, this is the way the story goes and what I grew from. The point of sharing this story is to 1) help you laugh out loud at my expense, because we all know first year struggles are real 2) remind you that we have all been in a place that we weren’t sure what to do next 3) share out that we all learn and grow on this journey of education, and doing it together is what makes us great!
I do not believe there is a single person in the United States who took the time to seek a position in education because the money is amazing and the summers are worth the late nights and weekends we work all year long. Every teacher started this journey because there is something beautiful about growing the minds and hearts of our future generations! We care! I do think that there are obstacles along the way that creep up on us and mold us in ways we did not see coming. I do think that there are issues in the world of education that sometimes change us. We have to start every single school year remembering the fire and excitement of that first year, of our most supportive administrator, of the day that every single lesson plan ran flawlessly, and the copy machine did not jam! Oh the power of the perfect day! Oh the power of the days that aren’t perfect, the struggles of trying to juggle it all, and the heaviness that can start to outweigh the beautiful reasons we all chose this adventure in education. I know we all have a beautiful reason we just have to hold on to it. We all have the stories that made the hard parts worth it! So know you are not alone in the hard parts, struggles, and moments that break us...in! Just know when you can share them is when we can say, "welcome to the IN club!"