I knew I wanted to be a teacher since high school. When I started college, Art Ed was my major from day one and I never looked back. When I graduated, I got a job right away and was incredibly excited that I got to have a fabulous space to create and work with students. And although I made a ton of mistakes my first year, there are plenty of things that did go right and that I hope never to change.
I started thinking about this post from tweets about the #TMSydney Virtual TeachMeet scheduled for September 12th. The premise is to create a video or presentation that tells your first year teacher self something about what you have learned or what you would have done differently. It is kind of like the post here, where Josh Stumpenhorst writes a letter to his first year self.
This got me thinking, as a first year teacher, what would I want my future self to know? What are things that I should never lose and are critical to remember as the years of teaching accumulate? So here is a letter from my first year teacher self to my current and future self (if I have lost you, sorry, you can go read another post by someone a little more linear).
Dear Future Janine,
First, I want to start out by congratulating you. If you are reading this letter, that means you are still at it, teaching kids and making art and changing the world in the process. You might not still believe this to be true, but it is and don't ever forget it. Although I have not been at this as long as you have, I do have some other key points that you should never forget, no matter how long you plan to teach.
1. Get out from behind your desk. I realize you are not as young and spry as me, but please get up from your chair and move around. Remember to change things up and not be afraid of the bizarre looks from your students when you tell them to stand on their chairs while flailing around to learn the color wheel. Be amused in their groans of protest and realize that you need to get up and moving just as much as they need it. Please do not turn into one of those teachers that is constantly on auto-pilot, anchored to their desk and passive in their teaching. Teaching is active and messy, especially in the Art room - so keep buying clothes on clearance because you are bound to ruin plenty in the process.
2. You are not an island. Sure, you might be the only one in your building that teaches Art, but you do not have to go all Cast Away because of it (even though students do seem to like it when you talk to your staplers - keep doing that). Make sure you keep reaching out and making friends in the process. You have a lot you can learn from others and who knows, they might learn something from you, too. Remember that you are better when you reach out and connect with people. Please do not fall into the trap of closing your door - keep it open and do not be afraid of letting people inside. It has worked for me so far, and I have a feeling it will continue to do so.
3. You are lucky. I have been waiting and working for this opportunity for quite a while and although many people in college looked at me sideways when I told them I was not worried about getting a job, realize that you are incredibly lucky to have yours. I am in awe of the fact that you get to do something that is so fun and rewarding. Please do not turn into one of those teachers who find something to complain about all of the time. If you do, then turn in your keys and let someone like me take over for you, because I cannot imagine a sadder sight. You have always wanted to teach because you know what good teachers have done for you; remember you have the capacity to do that for others. Put whatever passing annoyances aside and make that your purpose for moving forward.
Well, all I have left to say is that I am excited. I know I am going to make mistakes (and believe it or not, you will continue to make them, too), but I really hope this feeling of excitement remains no matter how many years of teaching passes. Good luck as you start another year and remember to smile more than not.
Take Care -
First Year Teacher You :)