Reflections of the First Year in the Classroom

It has only been two weeks since the last day of school and I am still exhausted. I have worked a diverse pedigree of jobs ranging from secretary work to a stint as an iron worker. Regardless of the pain, anguish, and injuries sustained in those jobs, none were as trying and mentally exhausting as the art of education. But I wouldn’t redo a thing.

As a teacher that just concluded my first year in the trade, the only advice I can give is organization, organization, organization. It is really simple to lose track of things and to have a cluttered desk. The reason is because as a teacher, one will have anywhere from ninety to one hundred and fifty students at a time. But that isn’t the real reason for the need for organization. The real reason is the unprecedented amount of paperwork the school will give a teacher. In the long run, that school will only ask for 15-25% of that paperwork back. So I say again; organization, organization, organization.

I could go on and on with stories from my first year but instead I want to share the most significant impact I made on a student this year. This was a moment that gave me extreme gratification in my work and career choice. It did not however, take place in my regular classroom but rather my attempt at tutoring one of the wrestlers I coach. It appears that over the years a shift took place in America’s appreciation of academics. These days athletics seems to reign supreme. It is often that the nerd is ridiculed over the star running back. Keep in mind that this goes on even though the nerd might cure cancer and the running back could be sweeping floors. I agree that this transition has taken place. I am also one that would like to see a greater appreciation for academia over athleticism but I see the positive effects of the other side. This aforementioned shift is seen in the public schools as well where coaches reign supreme over teachers. In these hard economic times, many coaches are more likely to be hired or to simply keep their job, over a regular classroom teacher. I am one of those. If it weren’t for my background in Wrestling, I would not have a job and also would not have been able to help this particular student. In this story, one can see the positive influence a coach can have.

Many teachers in public schools do not understand a lot of modern coaches. Some teachers do not realize the relationship between athletes and coaches. Nor do some teachers grasp that for some athletes, coaches are more like fathers or the authority figure the athletes never had.  Because I coached this particular student, I was a trustworthy person to him. There was a relationship there that might not have been there otherwise. This particular student/athlete wanted to get a good college education and wanted his wrestling to help pay for that education. The school he wanted to go to required a higher SAT score than what he had. I worked and worked with this student during, before, and after school. We went over test taking skills, vocabulary….the works. In the end, he improved his SAT score and got accepted to the college of his choice. With that acceptance, this wrestler also got his wrestling scholarship.

To have a hand in that work and SAT score felt and feels good. It gives me gratification; a worthiness in this world. My Dad told me before I started teaching, that if I could find gratification in my work, I’d never regret my career choice. He’s right. Teaching is a gratifying profession as other professions are. I am thankful that I made the right choice, and a bit thankful for that athlete and coach dynamic. After my first year teaching, I can truly say that I am looking forward to another.