I Have A Fondness For New Teachers
I have a fondness for new teachers. I was once upon a time a fresh face. Instead of sitting comfortably in a desk, I was the lone face staring from the instructional side of the Great Beyond. I thrived in classrooms. My survival is due to the open sharing made by more experienced colleagues .
I must have been an exceptionally earnest new teacher. I can still recall a teacher visit. S/he did make comments about how busy I appeared. S/he was sympathetic and stated there was a time we all struggled to keep our nose above water. She also took time to explain that teaching has such a varied schedule that ten months are needed to learn the ‘job’. I did not understand. Patiently, she quizzed me about other employment I had enjoyed. I described life as a short order cook in Canada’s far north and file clerk in a dimly lit basement. S/he observed that such jobs take a day or a week to learn the routine, expectations and duties. Teaching, however, is not so straightforward. There is an annual cycle to this vocation, with a cycle of seasons. Inexperienced teachers are continuously introduced to the sequence and task demands of an instructional year.
I am grateful s/he took time to explain that I would not ‘pull it all together by the end of September.’ S/he was so right. September does not resemble October in the life of a classroom nor a school. November is light years away from March.
The second piece of lived experience shared was that effective teachers take time out for self-care. The school janitor remarked that ‘I lived at the school.’ More experienced teachers did notice. One teacher told me that teachers are allowed week-ends. S/he counselled that curriculum content and instructional activity placed a high demand on the noggin, with higher level cognitive skills in constant use. S/he told me the brain needs rest in much the same way a race horse needs a cool down period and some free time in the pasture.
I found it a challenge to make ‘me’ time but I found that when properly rested that brain was more amenable to providing quicker response time. Self-care had become forgotten as an overloaded education student with a part-time job. Thus, learning how to take care of myself without guilt was a struggle. However, this second piece of unsolicited advice was astute. As my career progressed I learnt my danger signs which prompted that I was needlessly sacrificing myself to career and forgetting family, friends, self.
The vocation of teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.
© S. Calliou September 1, 2013
Here is a poem for First Year Teacher.