The Next Chapter

“Take a deep breath as you walk through the door it’s the moment of your very first day,” plays in my head as I walk into school for the first day of school, just like it does on any other big first in my life. This year is my eighth year teaching, but I am teaching in a new school district and new grade level so I cannot help but feel like a first-year teacher again.

In many ways, this year parallels my first year teaching. Eight years ago, I began teaching third grade English language learners. This year I returned to teaching third grade and English learners. Luckily, I have learned a thing or two these past eight years so the learning curve will not be as steep (read: it will still be steep but at least I know what I am in for).

The first day begins with all the teachers out on morning duty to supervise students and interact with parents, and I am silently praying that no one will ask me a question since I do not know how things usually work at my new school. I walk around watching kids play, but none of the students come up to talk to me since to many of them I am still a stranger. The bell rings, and no one asks me questions I do not know the answers to (hallelujah!) and I greet my students.

I am greeted by smiling and skeptical students, neither of us know what to expect from each other. We enter the classroom and begin our day. Overall, the day went smoothly, except for me getting used to a new schedule and a nearly three-hour chunk of time with no breaks before lunch.

I tried to shake off feeling like a first-year teacher again, but the feeling stuck with me. At first, I was frustrated not knowing how to do things, who to go to for help with this or that, and not having any things I “usually” do for this subject or that subject. I just became a National Board Certified Teacher, and I wanted to saunter into my next chapter rocking everything right out of the gate, so this year has been humbling for me. I reflected on my first year teaching and remembered how much I learned and grew as an educator and human being that year. I left that year a better version of myself and a better teacher, and I am hopeful that I will experience the same growth this year.

So until then, I walk through the hallways that are no longer familiar, filled with faces of smiling people whose names I cannot remember, hoping that I will make a good impression on the staff, students and parents as I write the next chapter of my life.


Caitlin Gawlowski

I was born to be a teacher, although I did not realize that teaching was my calling until I began college. I have always loved to write and began college with the mindset of becoming a journalist. Before I began my freshman year of college, I changed my major to Elementary Education on a whim and have never looked back. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and won the Outstanding Student Teacher Award during my student teaching experience in the Cave Creek Unified School District.
I spent 7 years in the Washington Elementary School District teaching 2nd and 3rd grade. I became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2018, and I hold a certificate in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading/Language Arts. The 2019-2020 school year marks the beginning of my 8th year teaching, where I will be teaching 3rd grade English Language Learners, and supporting other National Board candidates on their journey toward National Board certification.
If I am lucky enough to have free time, you can find me planning my wedding, spending time with my infant son and fiancé, taking group fitness classes, or enjoying a good book.

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