No, I am not a criminal. I’m not here to ruin things for your daughter or waste a year of her learning. Neither am I trying to pick on her, or provoke her weak points. And hard as it is for you to believe I’m not trying destroy.
I am the teacher you were disappointed to know. The one you wished your daughter would have been spared, or the one your neighbor has been complaining about. Maybe I’m the one you had nightmares from as a child? Or the object of your 6th grade fun? You haven’t had pleasant experiences with me and from the moment you saw my name on the list you knew the year you were in for. After all, “First Year teachers” aren’t all that different, there’s bound to be some challenges and first year moments. You know your daughter will not learn as much as your older daughter had learned when she lucked out to be with the veteran. And if your daughter is ‘a handful’ you are sure she will not do too well with an amateur disciplinarian.
So how do you take it? You proceed to try and get your daughter into the ‘other’ class. And after you are sure everyone knows you are not happy with your daughter’s teacher , but were unfortunate enough to have your request refused, you proceed with a tough front making it clear to me that you are not happy and any challenges that arise are my fault. You give me the look when you see me around, and with your insensitive frustration you in some way or other let me know that this is not the field I should be working in. How dare I put your daughter who is at no fault of her own through a year of my mistakes. You feel it is irresponsible of me to undertake a class when I am not yet as experienced a teacher as your daughter deserves.
Sometimes I believe you. I wonder if this is really for me, what I am doing wrong, and why I can’t seem to get everything perfect. And with my true care and concern that you refuse to believe is there, I take it very personally that I am not reaching every students and that your daughter isn’t doing as well as she could.
I stay up late planning interesting and engaging lessons, and spend my free time getting advice from teachers more experienced then myself. Things improve and I am reaching more students, my discipline is solidified and things are going smoother. I still get phone calls from you. You want to know why we aren’t up to the same perek as your neighbor’s daughter who is in the same grade. You want to know why your daughter doesn’t know the teitchen the way she knew them last year and you are appalled at my supposedly vicious attempts to pick on your daughter. I hear you out. Loud and clear. And while I am wise enough to take it with a grain of salt, I am humbled by my apparent inadequacy and slow progress. while I have many successes to celebrate, my mistakes somehow speak loudly with a bold underlined print. I wonder again if this is for me. I feel terribly responsible for my not so perfect teaching, and wonder if I’ll ever be the teacher I want to be.
I think about your daughter and the better skills she’d probably gain had she been placed in the other class. And the worst part is that it’s my fault. I wonder if I’ll continue and eventually get better or perhaps spare myself the guilt and make an early retirement from my teaching career.
The year continues and among your barbs of hurtful comments you sprinkle a couple of compliments you could not hold back from saying when you saw how well your daughter internalized what she had learned. Or the creative project that your daughter enjoyed. By the time the end of the year comes around you are happier then when you started out. You learned that even first year teachers have what to give and while they definitely did not impart skills as well as the veteran, they had other talents to share and sharpened their other skills throughout the year. You thank me for the nice year I shared with your daughter.
I’m still not sure if I should teach. I’m still hurt by the many comments you’ve said and your sometimes valid disappointment at one of my not yet polished skills. I speak to people who know me better then you do, that help me realize that I am doing just what I am meant to be doing. They tell me it would be a crime for me to leave chinuch and Lubavitch mosdos need me. They remind me that I was in no way irresponsible in taking the position of a first year teacher. They remind me that I was responsible and took educational courses offered by our own mosdos on practical teaching methodology and continued to take classes as I taught to do my best to be the best that I can be. They tell me that much of a teacher’s success comes from experience and I have my first year behind me.
And so I take the plunge for yet another year of growth in the wonderful field of chinuch.
Tips for parents:
· Your Childs first year teacher is not a criminal! She means well, and is doing her best. A first year is not easy for anyone.
· If you have any complaints, proceed with caution, it is a human being you are dealing with, who takes her job very seriously, speak respectfully and offer a better solution.
· Always remember that every great teacher had a first year. Give your child’s teacher a chance.
· Your child’s first year teacher is most probably spending a lot more time preparing for class and thinking about your child then the experienced teacher who has 10 kids b”h. Appreciate it!
· If your child’s year is not going as well as you would have liked, hold your breath, it happens to the best of us, first year teachers exist and we need to deal with it like a mature adult.
· Take a moment to ponder the great sacrifice your child’s first year teacher may be making from her personal life for the difficult job of teaching as she hones her teaching skills.
Tips for aspiring or first year teachers:
· Take some courses on teaching before you enter the field. No matter how talented you are, teachers need to be trained.
· Continue to take classes and seek advice from professional mechanchim while you are teaching. One piece of good advice can save you weeks of frustration.
· Always remember that every great teacher had a first year. Give your yourself a chance!
· Do your best, but know your limit. Agonizing over alluding success will not do any good. Good teaching takes time, as long as you are doing your best, you are an excellent teacher (whether that blunt parent knows it or not).
While there will always be someone else who is a better teacher then you, there is never someone who has your personal talents and shares your personal successes.
Take note of your shortcomings. Get advice. Highlight your success. Celebrate them.