No amount of college courses, projects, lesson planning, classroom observations or student teaching can ever prepare you for when you have a classroom of your own. Walking into the building for the first day of school I had a huge mixture of emotions. I was excited, nervous, anxious, overwhelmed and homesick. I didn’t think one person could feel all those things at once, but it is possible.
As the students entered the building, my emotions escalated even more. First of all, I knew absolutely no one – no one’s name, no one’s grade. I was a little fish in a big sea. I felt like this the entire first week of school. It was a huge adjustment for me. Not only was I adjusting to a new city and new school, I was adjusting to working with middle school students. Just an FYI, middle school students are NOT the same as elementary school students; I quickly learned this in the first five minutes of the school day. The first thing I noticed about the middle school students is that the majority of them are taller than me. I don’t know why that surprised me so much because most people are taller than me. The second thing I noticed about the middle school students is that they are not afraid to talk back and do not like to listen or follow directions, especially given by a new teacher (me). I knew I was in for a rough and eye-opening year.
After the first day of school, my emotions changed drastically from excited, nervous, anxious to “what the heck am I doing here?!” Throughout the first month of school, the students continued to not listen to me, give me attitude, and make my days miserable. I talked things over with fellow teachers, got advice, and tried a few things out. It was and still is a trial and error period on how to manage the behavior of most students.
With the issues and behaviors combined with adjusting to this new place, I forgot what I was really here for. I came to teach the students that don’t get enough attention. I came to listen to the students and learn from them as much as they could learn from me. I came to help. I was reminded of why I came about a month into the school year.
A student, who is lower than most in his class and struggles in both reading and math, is in the class that I assist in. One day, I noticed he looked upset and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He pointed to the computer screen and just said “I don’t get it.” I looked at the screen, comparing decimals. (BIG sigh of relief that it wasn’t fractions. Fractions are not my friend.) I said to him, “Well that’s what I am here for!” I did one example for him, we did a second example together, and I let him try the third on his own as I watched. He understood immediately and his face lit up. It was like I could physically see the light bulb switch on. I told him to continue working by himself and let me know when he was finished. Ten minutes later, he had a huge smile on his face and showed me he got all the questions right. He then said to me, “Thank you Ms. Kennedy. It’s because of you I know what to do now.”
Yes, I still have my rough days and I am still figuring out how to control the students, but knowing I helped this one student keeps me going each day. I hope to have little moments like this with every student I work with.
Bridget Kennedy is a 1st year LV serving at De La Salle at St. Matt’s in Saint Louis, Missouri and is a 2014 graduate of La Salle University.