What a difference a year makes! Last year was my first year at my school, and I was hired to teach something they hadn’t had before: a middle school self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. At first, I was scared to death. I heard horror story after horror story of what I was getting myself into. As it would only be my second year of teaching, I was most definitely freaking out. However, as odd as it may sound, I always had a peace about the mission that lay before me.
That first day was utter chaos. There was crying (not me) and confusion (definitely me), but we got through it. I had six students (all boys) and two paraeducators (also both boys), all in one teeny-tiny room. It quickly became known as the “man cave” and we were only a little sad when we got to move to a bigger room in November. We slowly morphed from homeroom-bodies into a grand exodus venturing out to other parts of the building. By the end of the year, my self-contained class was spending about half the day in general education.
Fast-forward to this school year: I was totally excited and prepared for the first day to roll around. I have the same six students and two paras. We all know each others’ quirks and quibbles . . . very well! We got down to work the first day and haven’t slowed up one bit.
It’s also so nice to return to the same school building. I know how to take attendance, I know how to work the document camera (or at least ask a para to turn it on for me), and I know how to operate the lunch line (more on that below, as it was very traumatic for me). And, perhaps most importantly, I know who likes happy hour as much as I do. (Shhh . . . don’t tell anyone, but we really just go for the free popcorn. We’re teachers; free is good.)
I think someone at every school should write a handbook for first-year teachers. You don’t realize how much they didn’t teach you in college until you have five hundred random yet practical questions thrown at you, and you have no idea how to answer ANY of them!
Last year, I’m sure I did a thousand things wrong. I know I did the lunch line incorrectly because I got yelled at quite a few times. I still have guilt over the dill pickle I took that I wasn’t supposed to. My students use Styrofoam trays instead of the standard blue plastic ones everyone else uses; I got the third degree many times because of that. But when there’s a line and Betty needs to scoop the tater tot hotdish on to the next person’s tray, there really isn’t time for a lengthy discussion about why Johnny gets the white tray so there isn’t a meltdown over by the carrot sticks. I guess we got it all worked out. I haven’t been yelled at this year . . . yet.
To everyone out there who is in their very first year of teaching: I hope you have a blast. Next year, you will feel even more like a pro, and you’ll forget about most of the stuff that stumped you this year. Trust me, you’ll be laughing about it by May.
And to all the seasoned veterans out there: Thanks for answering the million questions from us newbies, and for showing us where to find free popcorn!
Happy new school year, everybody!