I believe in Learning Lessons the Hard Way

Colleen - Frankfort, Kentucky
Entered on May 8, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I’ve learned many lessons during my first year of teaching.

It seems no matter how original and engaging I perceive a lesson plan to be; my students help me see its faults. Over the course of nine months I’ve met and worked with students who have challenged my beliefs, pushed my limits, and proved to me why it is I wanted to be a teacher in the first place. Yet these lessons haven’t come easily. I believe in learning lessons the hard way.

I started out the year believing that that the old cliché “Don’t smile until Christmas” did not apply to me—I did not have the personality to pull that off. And thus began my first mistake that I have worked day in and day out to correct. Thinking back to my first day of school I grimace in embarrassment. At the time I truly believed I was prepared for what lay ahead. Yet within the first block of the day I realized teaching is not a science that can be mastered by applying a specific formula. One must find her own “voice” as a teacher. My “voice” first spoke with hesitation.

I hesitated because I did not know my students. In no way had my master’s degree truly prepared me for the day-to-day reality of a teacher. I struggled to find a tone that fit my personality as an individual, but also conveyed the authority of a teacher. I remained in a constant state of reflection. How could I present this better? How can I relate to this student with more ease? In these questions I began to develop a new voice. My second voice spoke with determination.

Determination is a tireless gift. Committing yourself to a goal day in and day out leaves a person feeling spent, even defeated on some days. I found myself making the same mistakes I had made earlier in the year, but this time experiencing more self contempt because I believed I should have already learned that lesson. I began to recognize that my mood would often echo my students’ attitudes. Tired and frustrated. It was from this recognition that I found a new voice in teaching—awareness.

I am aware that I am not perfect. I recognize that my students are not perfect. Yet what has been the hardest lesson to learn is accepting the lack of perfection that is possible in this profession. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I am not the teacher I secretly hoped I would be. My classroom is not a Hollywood movie set. Freedom writer I am not. “Oh Captain, My Captain” are not the words my students say to me as they leave the room, inspired by greatness. Yet my experience is real. My students are real. This lesson has not come by easily. I know that I will continue to make mistakes, and I plan to learn from them. Yet something tells me I will continue to learn in the pattern I’ve followed all my life. I believe in learning lessons the hard way. I expect my next lesson to begin tomorrow, at the first bell.