Day one was near-perfect.
I was able to leave both my boys (8 weeks and 2 and a half) at home with my inlaws for the first time without tears. I was on time (a true shocker for those who know me). I got the joy of meeting and welcoming 30 first-year secondary teachers to our district; They were eager, open, and full of joy.
Some of these beginning teachers were fresh out of college teacher prep program, 22 years old (that’s a 1997 birthday if you’re keeping track), and ready to change the world. Some of them were second- or third-career subject area experts with no formal teaching experience. Turns out that one of them is starting her career in the same classroom where I started mine. I was elated to see one of the last student interns I hosted in my classroom among the new teachers. A majority of our teachers at one time were students in the district they now teach in. I automatically felt incredibly connected to them.
My teammate and I got to discuss what guides our new teacher mentor program, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards 5 Core Propositions. We were able to discuss the importance of routines and procedures, principles of classroom management, and even deescalation strategies. We modeled some best practices, incorporating AVID, cooperative learning principles, and strategies from some of my favorite Twitter gurus.
The beginning teachers asked insightful questions, participated fully, and smiled, most of them seemed to be genuine, too. Conversations began to take place at the tables between teachers, emails and phone numbers exchanged. The energy level was just so positive.
Near. Perfect. Day.
Day two, on the other hand, could have been a different story.
Everything that could have gone wrong did. The night before, someone didn’t press start on the dishwasher before we went to bed, meaning bottles and pump parts weren’t sterilized and weren’t ready to go. Our oldest, Oliver, decided that the yogurt and pancake breakfast he normally loves were suddenly abhorrent to him. Our youngest, Carter, decided that the playmat and bouncy seat he normally loves in the morning were now abhorrent to him as well. So, of course, we were running late. I cried in the car, the physical act of dropping off my young infant for the first time taking its toll. Once I got to work, I discovered that my makeup was only half done. To top it all off, I spilt my newly pumped milk in my first session of the day.
I literally cried over spilled milk. As I cleaned it up, I knew I had to shift my thinking. I had to choose to get out of the funk that was my morning. For me, I know that people and relationships are what build me up. I sought out conversations with my teachers that weren’t surface level. We talked about fears, aspirations, past experiences, and future anxieties. We started to build relationships and rapport.
Then we ended our day with Kareem Neal, 2019 Arizona Teacher of the Year. On his sixth slide, in all caps, he wrote: COMMUNITY IS SACRED. There it was, literally spelled out for me. It was community I craved to help get me out of my second-day funk. It was community that drives my desire to mentor to my beginning teachers. The sacred space that we create within our classrooms and within our relationships has to guide the decisions we make. I can’t wait to continue to build this sacred community with my beginning teachers!
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