I was not the easiest student to have in the classroom because I was a smart-aleck who liked to be the center of attention and make everyone laugh. In my elementary school, students stayed with the same classmates and teachers for two years before they got re-shuffled and it was grouped, K-1, 2-3, 4-5. This meant that my teachers got to experience me for not just one whole school year, but two!
The first time I took a trip to the Principal’s Office was in Kindergarten. We were doing independent, silent work and my teacher was crouched down near a desk, on the opposite side of the room and I thought she had left. I stood up on my desk and yelled “she’s gone which means it’s party time!!!” My teacher immediately stood up and wrote me a hall-pass to the Principals Office.
I continued through elementary school rebelling and getting into all sorts of trouble. My Dad started threatening me with an all girls private school that was across from his office. He said he’d walk to the school to hold my hand and walk me from class to class everyday which really scared me straight, even if I didn’t totally act like it.
Eventually I graduated from the public elementary school and too my surprise, they were happy to see me leaving them too. I moved onto middle school where my elementary school was mixed with 6 others in the district to make up an extremely over crowded middle school. We were split into a track system and we were in school for 9 weeks and then we were off for 3. It was a pretty good life.
After middle school, I went to the neighborhood high school and I feel like this is where I finally started to grasp who I was and who I wanted to be. I was absolutely slammed with extra curricular activities and commitments I’d made outside of school so my life was pretty busy. I was completely overwhelmed but there was a sort of excitement that came with having such a busy schedule.
One of my classes was an education pathway and we had the opportunity to go to a nearby elementary school and be in the classroom working with students. It was on one of these trips that my decision to be a teacher was solidified.
There was a student in the class next to mine and I knew him because I would babysit for his family on the weekends. I was surprised to see him in a general education classroom setting because he had learning and behavioral issues. His teacher was not well equipped to handle his outbursts but because of the way the public education system works, he didn’t meet the state’s criteria to be put in a special education classroom or have an aid help him through the day. His teacher tried to handle his outbursts and distractions by putting him in a corner by himself and he dreaded school because of the loneliness and embarrassment that came with his teachers decisions.
I realized I wanted to be a teacher who could help the students that fell between the cracks of our education system. I wanted to be a teacher who could be in a general education classroom setting who had some background knowledge into handling different kinds of behaviors as well as the passion and drive to want to be there. Here we are, three years into college, pursuing my degree in Elementary Education with a endorsement in Special Education.
Every time someone hears that I’m going to become a teacher, I get the same reaction over and over again. They say something along the lines of “Bless your heart,” followed quickly by something about how little money I’m going to make. Anyone who wants to be a teacher and is in school working on their teaching degree, I promise you, knows damn well how much (or how little I should say) money they’re likely going to be making when they graduate. For me at least, the haunting prospect of never making as much money as I would like to, and certainly not as much as is worth all the work I’ll be putting in, doesn’t even begin to sway me away from teaching. I fought long and hard to get here and I’ll be damned if I let something like money push me away from the profession I love with every bit of my heart.
I was raised by a yoga teacher and a nurse practitioner, the perfect example of free spirit meets practical and realistic. My mom, the free spirit, always encouraged me to do what my heart desired. She used to say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But that encouraging voice was often drowned out by the hundreds of other voices surrounding me, talking about money and how the future was STEM, and how I would always be guaranteed job security and a nicely sized paycheck if I looked to the medical field.
I had loved teaching since I was young, finding ways to baby-sit, tutor, lead summer camps, and coach children whenever I could, but my family had steered me towards science related programs. In high school it was easy to compromise: I tutored students in math and science and taught summer camp at the Science Center, but college was different. When it came time to pick my major, I found myself split between what I loved and had always loved and those little voices whispering in my ear that teaching would never get me anywhere in life and to stick to what was sure to make me money.
As the daughter of divorce, I craved stability over passion and entered college with the intent to join the medical field. It didn’t take long for me to realize that all my classes were making me miserable and that I wouldn’t be happy continuing down the STEM path, but finally admitting that I loved the career that everyone had always warned me away from was terrifying. After a semester of General chemistry that made me want to drop out of college all together, I gathered the courage to switch my major. I did so a few days before the end of my freshman year and didn’t tell a soul. It was an incredibly scary secret to keep, knowing that I had done the opposite of what everyone had told me and finally made a life decision based off what I loved, but my gosh I can not begin to describe the level of pure elation I was feeling.
The next few weeks involved a lot of conversations about whether I was making the right choice, but from the minute I switched my major, I know that I was finally following the right path for me. It’s been a long journey since then, full of crazy unsure times where no one really knew what to expect, but I continued to gain experience where I could. I worked in a second grade classroom for a semester, then in a kindergarten after school program. When the schools all closed, I became a nanny and worked with the most incredible little boys to get them through remote learning and continue to develop my teaching skills. And now that schools are open again, I’m teaching kindergarten again in a local school, navigating the craziness that is every day in a kindergarten classroom.
My days are full of random questions and repeating instructions about a million times, punctuated by the occasional “I LOVE CHEETOS” or “WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DINOSAUR?” My kindergarteners are funny, clever, and so excited to be at school every (okay most) morning. We have so much fun and nothing beats getting to see them learn something new every day. And while working in my classroom makes me happier than I ever thought I could be at work, I promise you my days are by no means full of sunshine and rainbows. My students drive me up the wall at times, while they’re so smart and work so hard, they’re still only five years old. I get yelled at, occasionally have things thrown at me, and every once in a while have to persuade a very angry five year old not to run away and to come inside the school without touching them (because we aren’t allowed to do that).
This job is not for the faint of heart and if for some reason you’re in it for the money, it won’t be worth it I promise you. This job is for those who want to make a difference, who love watching small minds grow, and who are as prepared as possible for a day of insanity… in the best possible way of course.
I have only a few years left of being a student as of now, which is both a scary and liberating thought. I think that many teachers, especially older ones, sometimes forget what it felt like to be a student and lose their ability to empathize with them as a result. In order to prevent this from happening to me in the future, I will use this assignment as an opportunity to document my experiences of being a student throughout the years, starting at the beginning: preschool.
When it comes to preschool, all I remember was playing outside all day and nap times. I honestly hardly remember anything from that time, so maybe it doesn’t make sense to have a preschool section in this post. But for the sake of encompassing my entire academic experience, I will persevere.
One of the few things I remember is that I did not take full advantage of nap time as a preschooler, which I regret very much now. For some reason, I didn’t get tired like the other kids and wanted to continue playing during our sleepy times. If I could go back in time, I’d give preschooler Lannie this Spotify playlist that I use almost nightly to fall asleep now.
As an elementary student, I remember being a little bit crazy. Some of my friends who went to elementary school with me still like to bring up how I used to bite them on the playground. I don’t really remember much of actually biting people (thankfully), but I do remember my mom being absolutely pissed when she found out. Not my brightest moment in life.
Yes, I was the weird kid on the playground in the past, but now I consider myself a relatively normal person who no longer bites people. This experience will remind me in the future that even though a child may act really weird in youth, there is still a chance that they will not be as weird when they grow up.
Kumon was a big part of my life in elementary school. For those who were lucky enough to have never heard of it, Kumon is an educational company that focuses on math and reading. It’s basically a cram school. I studied math in Kumon and was completely miserable. I would do everything I could to evade having to complete my work and go to the Kumon classroom. I often got in trouble for it, but all those scoldings did not help with my lack of motivation. Eventually, I convinced my parents to let me quit which was one of the happiest moments of my life. Yet ironically, I went back to Kumon to work there as a high schooler.
I’m in no way trying to slander Kumon. To prove it, I will even provide a video below on how Kumon helps students in case people were interested in having their children enroll.
I actually think Kumon was really helpful, but just not for all students. There was little diversity in the way kids learned; You were just handed packets of problems to complete every week. There are many kids out there that flourish under Kumon’s instruction, but there are also many that do not gain anything from it. For teachers, this concept should be a no-brainer since they see the differences in which kids learn every day.
I believe middle school is the most embarrassing time of everyone’s life. And so, I will not be going in-depth here because I just don’t want to think about it too much.
Band is what I remember the most from middle school. I truly recommend sending your children to band as an elective because it keeps children out of trouble, teaches them music, and ensures that they have friends even though those friends might be a bit odd. At least that’s what I experienced. I chose to play percussion because I did taiko (Japanese drumming) outside of school and my sister chose percussion. Unfortunately, that was truly one of the worst choices of my life.
Band was also an opportunity to travel. We went to other islands in Hawaii and to Disneyland! Those trips were definitely highlights of my middle school experiences. One of my close friends and fellow percussionists uploaded his vlogs from the trip, and so I included one of them below. He screams his head off the entire time so don’t wear earphones if you decide to watch it.
High school is when things got much busier. I continued in band, but it was no longer my first priority. I started having to divide my focus between student government, tennis, clubs, standardized tests, AP classes, my Japanese studies, and many other extracurriculars/interests.
Many of my favorite memories come from my Japanese classes. It was through Japanese that I met possibly my favorite teacher ever. She build very strong relationships with her students and assigned us many fun and contextualized projects. Her class was anything but easy. However, I knew that she had high expectations for all her students that she was certain we could meet them. This made me motivated not only in terms of getting good grades but also to make her proud. As a result, I learned a great deal of Japanese from her, enough to pass the Seal of Biliteracy test in my senior year. I’m very grateful to my sensei!
Although I was never that good at it, I did tennis for all 4 years of high school. I really miss the camaraderie that you feel when you’re a student-athlete on a team. However, I do not miss the stress that can result during the season of your sport. There were many moments when I felt mentally, physically, and emotionally drained, especially when there were high-stakes matches and intense practices every day on top of everything else going on. If I ever find myself being a high school teacher, I’ll definitely remember how stressful high school can be for students.
Transitioning to college from high school was strange to say the least. My first year of college was completely online, something that I had never experienced before. It wasn’t the most terrible experience for me. I was actually pretty happy to stay at home sometimes, just hanging out with my dog. But I will say, living in Hawaii Standard Time while your classes are in Pacific Standard Time was extremely annoying. Not only did I have to wake up insanely early for classes, but I also had to constantly convert times in my head and adjust my schedule whenever Daylight Savings hit.
When my current, second year of college came around, I was finally able to go onto campus and attend in-person courses. It felt completely different from my previous year online. I hadn’t made a single close friend at UP when things were online, and now I have a great friend group with who I will be living in a house next year! These experiences are a reminder of how important the social aspect is in one’s education. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for students in grades K-12 who were completely online last year.
The life of a student is certainly filled with ups and downs. It is such a memorable and important time of life that teachers especially cannot forget. A good teacher should be able to draw on their own experiences and empathize with their students. When I become a teacher, I want to try my best to imagine my students’ POV to understand their experiences in my class, and that can only happen if I remember what it was like to be a student in the first place.
Wow, just typing that title was exciting. Although many questions fill my head about how you (I?) are doing, what the future looks like, where you are reading this from right now, and so many more, I wonder mostly about what life in the classroom looks like. I wonder about the pandemic (pleeeease say it’s over) and how schools are responding to it, I wonder what grade I chose to teach, and how it is all going inside the classroom. I do know, however, that wherever you landed, you are enjoying it and you are killing it.
I am loving college and these moments I have right now but I am equally as excited to begin working in the classroom. I feel eager to just jump in and start, partly because we do not get to be in a classroom right now for field experience and I miss that, but also because some of my best memories were working at the pre-school! I really miss that environment and those kiddos, and I feel like that affirms that this is the right job for me. Although I only taught for one year, there are a few really valuable things that I learned that I wish I heard more while I was a teacher.
It is so okay – and NECESSARY – to ask for help!
So often I found myself not knowing how to support all of my students best, where to find resources and supplies, and overall navigating the crazy life of teaching. Being a first-year teacher is tough. On the bright side, you technically already did it! I know that it is going to be super overwhelming jumping into a new school, having a whole new set of coworkers, and practicing all of your personal beliefs. Remember, you would not have gotten hired if they did not believe in you and think that you would be a good fit for the school and your kiddos! Give yourself credit – you are smart and deserving of where you are. Also, ask for help. There is already so much expected of you, do not make life harder than it needs to be! It is going to be a stressful transition, but asking for help from people who have been in your shoes before will be so relieving.
Also, it is okay if you do not have an aesthetically pleasing classroom like this or your day doesn’t seem to go as smoothly as this. Tik tok teachers have bad days too, they just rarely show it! (p.s., same goes with your teacher friends!)
2. Actively practice teaching with gratitude!
There are going to be toughhhh days. I am sure you remember those days and might have already experienced a few by now. But, you can do it. You are equipped to handle the outbursts, the heartbreaks, and the days that just feel impossible. When you need a reminder of why you are doing what you do, find a quiet space for even just a minute and pick out one good thing that happened today. It might be hard, but there is joy and laughter in every day! Here are some examples if it is hard to think of some: you are blessed to have a job, transportation, the kiddos who made you laugh today, and an amazing support system!
3. Take a break!
There is always going to be more to do. It will never end! I am sure that as you are reading this you have something to prep, something to cut, something to blah blah blah! You will not be able to give if you do not give to yourself! Practice self-care, do what you love to do, and do not overthink everything! Stay organized, prioritize what you need to do, and everything will fall into place. Your 6-year-old students will not notice whether or not you created your own activity or borrowed something from online – promise.
You got this. I know, because:
(this letter in no way condones listening to all advice from Kim Kardashian)
Remember all the people who love you and believe in you, especially your students. You can do this!
In all honesty, until about 2 years ago, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a teacher. Not even as I was sitting at my desk, filling out college applications, and staring at the box that said “Select a Major.” (I was freaking out.)
I wish I could say that this is what I have always dreamed of doing with my life, that I knew at 7 years old that this is what I wanted, and that I started this Pinterest board back in 2012 (I started it about a year and a half ago…). But the truth is, it took a lot of thinking, reflecting, and a bit of panicking, to finally pull the trigger.
What I can say for sure, is that the teachers I have had during my own schooling are the same individuals that I think about when I find myself unsure of the path I am currently taking. They are my main inspirations, and I am constantly working to be as great of a teacher to my future students as they were to me.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wong, was the first teacher that I felt like really saw me. I had just moved schools in the middle of the year and was deathly afraid.
I got to school waytoo early and was standing outside the classroom like:
She came right up to me, started a conversation, and reassured me that I was going to be just fine. For the rest of the year, we would talk everyday before school, and I helped her out with anything I could after school. Her classroom was the one place in my life that I felt heard and seen. I want to be able to make my future students feel as safe and welcomed as she made me feel.
The next teacher that impacted me was my math teacher in freshmen year of high school, Ms. Sebastian. I have to start this by saying, I am terrible at math.
It felt like no matter how many practice problems I did, I could never get the hang of anything (but I did manage to memorize the quadratic equation – a win in my book). I started going in after school and Ms. Sebastian spent many hours teaching me ideas over and over and over again, showing me countless practice problems, and trying every possible strategy she could think of.
It was at the end of the year, when I just managed to scrape by and pass my exams, that I realized how hard it must have been to help me. The way she managed to pull out all the stops just to help me understand a single concept was incredible, and was the only way I was able to pass that class. I am a firm believer in the idea that there is no such thing as an unteachable student. It is a huge teaching goal of mine to be able to gather as many strategies and skills as possible so that I have a full toolbox of ways to help the “unteachable” student.
Mrs. Wong and Ms. Sebastian are not the only two teachers I have to owe my inspiration to, every teacher I have ever had has taught me something, and I aim to take all of my experiences and add to my own teaching approach, to hopefully be another students inspiration someday.
As a future teacher, I’ve taken a lot of time to think about my experiences in classrooms, whether its as a student, tutor, or teaching assistant, and to think about the classroom management styles and teaching philosophies that I would want to implement. I hope that when I become a teacher, I always look back and think about what I can do to continue to improve my classroom.
1: Establish a Routine
One thing I know I’ll want to make sure I implement in my classroom is a clear and predictable routine! I hope to always have a routine up on the board that students can refer to. Even if I end up teaching younger grades with kids who don’t feel as confident with their reading ability, I still think it will still be really useful to have so that the students get a visual indicator that maps out their day.
Perhaps more important is the sense of familiarity and comfort that comes with having a schedule, especially for younger students or students that feel like they are in an unfamiliar environment. Also, musical cues can be helpful for signaling certain times of the day, especially when it comes to transitions, and I hope to implement that as well.
2: Be a role model, be active and engaged in the classroom
One of the most valuable lessons I learned was during my last semester at UP. In one of my courses, my professor was discussing how different teachers may react to students’ outbursts or other signs of misbehavior. The message my professor gave that resonated with me, is that if a student is “acting out”, it’s likely because they have a need that’s not being met. I believe it’s important to stay as engaged with your class as much as possible, checking in with each student, and making they sure know what to do. If they feel lost, then help them figure out the first step they can take to being back on track.
I also hope to have a book corner of some sort, so that if a student is feeling overwhelmed for whatever reason, they can have a space within the class to take a break, read a book, and to just gather their thoughts.
Along with songs to symbolize routines throughout the day, I think it can also be useful to have quiet music in the background while students are working. This can be classical music, nature sounds, or any other audio that creates a relaxing atmosphere.
3: Community is Everything
Something I’ve learned from my time during field experience is that you really can’t undermine the importance of community in a classroom. During my field experience, the fourth grade classroom I was placed in had a great sense of community, as the teacher used group work, discussions, and tons of different collaborative assignments in all sorts of subjects and content areas. The students were always willing to share their ideas with the class, which showed that she succeeded in creating a safe space for her class.
There are so many more ideas and philosophies I would want to implement in the classroom. I hope that I implement all the ideas I listed to the best of my ability, and that more importantly, I continue to take notes of great classroom management strategies from my peers, and to always be open to adjusting my teaching style whenever it’s necessary.
I am so excited to be a future educator! Looking back to past experiences these are the reasons why I want to become a teacher.
I have watched my mom teach ever since I was a little girl. I would always go into work with her and pretend I was her teacher assistant. My mom has always been my biggest supporter and my goal is to become a great teacher just like her! She truly is my biggest inspiration!
2. Ever since attending ‘Iolani School back on Oahu, I have been a dance coach for little girls (Kindergarten-3rd Grade). Some of my students are now in the 9th grade and seeing how much they have grown really is rewarding.
3. My love for kids!! I absolutely love children, students that I have worked with in the past always had so much energy and could cheer me up when I was having a bad day. My favorite part about working with little kids is that they have such an amazing imagination and some of the ideas they come up with have never crossed my mind before.
4. I love to communicate and converse with anyone and everyone! I have always been someone that loves to talk and get to know people. I would consider myself to be very personable and outgoing because I like to get to know new people. I knew that I needed to figure out a career path that would allow me to communicate and converse with other people because of how talkative I am.
5. As a student in middle school and high school, I discovered that I learn differently than others, I used creativity as an emotional outlet. I have been a dancer since I was four years old and as I got older I realized that dance was what helped me get through school. My dance teacher at ‘Iolani was the one person that really pushed me and helped me to succeed as a person in the dance world and in the academic field. As a future educator, I hope that I am able to help my students find that safe place and that one thing that inspires them to push themselves.
6. The last reason is this is a chance to help shape and create our future generations! I am excited to inspire and educate young children who look up to us as their role models. Reason being, when I was younger I have always looked up to my teachers and wished I could be just like them and make a difference!
I hope you have found joy and passion behind what you do. How is everything? Is it like you expected? Do your students make you laugh everyday? I’m sure it has been a rollercoaster of emotions.
I have so many questions, but I want you to remember where it all started…
Hopefully by the time you are visiting this letter you are Ms. Kaelyn or Ms. Kato (whatever you have decided). I have A LOT of advice to give you and I’m sure you are reading this questioning how good this advice may be, but trust me I’ve learned quite a lot from these past couple of CRAZY years. First let’s talk about why you wanted to become a teacher in the first place…
You have always loved kids… even when you were one. Even though times in the classroom may be tough, stick to it! Become the positive influence that you have always wanted your students to have in their life.
When looking back at your own personal experience with teachers, there was always that one teacher that had the most impact on you. Remember her name? You knew, from the moment you stepped foot into her classroom, that she would change your outlook on life. You wanted to be a great teacher just like her. Don’t forget how much of an impact she had on your education experience.
You’ve always had a passion to be creative from the moment you could hold a colored pencil! The first piece of advice I give you is to… let that creativity flow into your students! If you ever forget the importance of creativity, watch this video.
Of course teaching is gonna have its ups and downs, but remember how silly and fun your students can be!
The second piece of advice I give to you is that it’s okay to not be everyones favorite teacher! You are so excited to become a teacher, but just know that you cannot please every one of your students. I’m sure you will try and try to be the best teacher ever, but believe in yourself and the students will have trust in you.
Lastly, remember how much of an impact classroom community has on the students! You have always wanted your students to feel safe in the classroom, so do as much as you can to build a great foundation for trust and positive relationships.
Remember, stay true to yourself and the rest will fall in place… eventually. YOU GOT THIS!
Future Ms. Kaelyn… or Ms. Kato (still haven’t decided).
One of the most self-explanatory steps in building a student-centered classroom is to notice the individuality of your students and celebrate that. Each student brings their own gifts and talents into the classroom. Looking back on my own educational experiences, I especially loved the teachers who took time to get to know me and pushed me to recognize all the assets I brought to the classroom. This can be as simple as giving every student a specific, positive comment each day. I also believe in greeting all students as they enter the classroom, which is a great way to get a read on what state of mind a student is in upon arriving to class. Here is a video showing a first-grade teacher who uses this practice in her own classroom.
Idea 2: Meet Your Students’ Basic Needs
Before real learning can happen, it is so important to meet your students’ basic needs. When I did field experience in a first grade class at César Chávez Elementary, my CT, Mrs. Johnson would always make sure that her students had enough food to eat for snack or lunch time and that they had an adequate coat when they were going outside to play. She knew that it would be much harder to teach her students if their basic needs were ignored. If she noticed a student who was struggling to focus, she would pull them aside and address what might be challenging them. a good amount of the time, they simply needed to grab some food from her snack drawer and then they were able to re-focus on their work.
Idea 3: Make the Classroom Environment One That Invites Student Success
The physical classroom environment can have a big impact on a student’s school experience. A few ideas that I want to implement in my own classroom include: having a diverse classroom library (it is so important for students to see themselves represented in the texts they read), filling the room with plants (having the students help take care of them can be a great source of responsibility), and adding string lights around the room (the florescent lighting typically found in classrooms can be harsh and headache-inducing). I also want to include a calming corner in my classroom with a beanbag chair, puzzles, a music player and headphones with soothing music (rain music always calms me down), and other manipulatives like a plastic bottle with glitter and little trinkets.
Idea 4: Don’t Tackle This Job Alone
As someone who refuses to ask for help in most scenarios, this idea can be hard for me to abide by. However, trying to be a teacher without relying on outside help not only gets in the way of your job success, it harms your students. If we want to be the best teachers possible, we must learn to ask for help from our fellow teachers, administrators, and parents. As cliché as it sounds, asking for helping is truly a sign of strength, not weakness. Here is one of my favorite teacher podcasts that sums up this idea really well.
Idea 5: Constantly Improve Your Teaching Practice
In order to build the best classroom possible, it is also important for the teacher to be a lifelong learner. To me, this involves being on the look-out for new tips and tricks, whether they come from podcasts, professional development events, or even TikToks. There is so much to be learned from other educators and we owe it to our students to constantly improve our teaching practice. For example, here is a TikTok with an example of how to teach fairness in the early elementary grades.
Podcasts are also a great tool for becoming a better teacher and I love that you can listen to them while driving, doing the dishes or going on a walk. Here is one I listened to in my ED 442 (Reading & Language Arts Methods) class that discusses how teachers should value the linguistic variety in their students rather than viewing it with a deficit mindset.
A timeline of the teachers that helped me throughout my academic years and inspired me to be a teacher.
2nd grade: I struggled with reading for while and was concerned with falling behind. I got extra help after school by our classroom tutor. It helped me gain confidence and excitement towards reading.
3rd grade: I was the new kid where I knew no one. On the first day in the morning before class started, I met my teacher and told her I was new. She quickly changed her seating chart to sit me next to a nice girl who the teacher knew would help me out. It was so kind of my teacher to take the time to change her plan to accommodate me and helped me get through my first day with less fears.
5th grade: I was struggling with math a lot at this time, and my teacher saw my struggles and wanted to help. I did weekend tutoring with my teacher, and he helped give me the understanding and confidence in math that I was lacking. He was always so kind. Once I was caught up on math, I still met with him to talk about life as he was a great listener and made me feel safe and heard. It was because of this teacher that I wanted to be a teacher.
6th grade: My teacher created a great sense of community in our class. Everyone felt heard, included, and appreciated. She took extra time to get to know each one of us and make sure we were learning to our best potential.
7th grade: This was when I started trying really hard as a student and enjoy doing so. I had a hard history teacher, and while in the moment it was a struggle being in his class, at the end I appreciated having him because he showed me how hard I could work and the potential I had.
11th grade: My English grade teacher had a great impact on my life. There was many things happening in my life at this time that was very difficult, and she was always there for me. Her classroom was open during lunch for students, and I sometimes would go there and just chat with her about everything, and she was really helpful. She inspired me of what kind of teacher I wanted to be.
My teachers taught me many things, but they also showed me through their kindness, support, great leadership, and patience what a great teacher is and who I aspire to be.
I can’t wait to became a great teacher like the ones that I have had and help my students as my teachers helped me.
I write this letter to you, from the comfort of my good, ole, college house bedroom. Oh the good days of balancing two jobs, full time student-teaching, and being a full time student! Hopefully by now you have some more time to relax?!
Anyway, by the time you read this, you will be Ms. Lyons, with your very own classroom! Right now, the stress of the last semester of senior year is building up and I have no idea where I am going to end up, how I are going to get there, what opportunities are going to present themselves to me, or anything in between. All I know right now, is that I want to be a teacher and that dream will become a reality after graduation in May. With the millions of uncertainties right now, it is stress relieving to know that there is a certainty that I will become a teacher, and that teacher is you! The woman who had dreamed of becoming a teacher from when she was a little girl. The woman who was told that “teachers don’t make enough so you should consider a different career path.” The woman who was passionate about shaping little hearts and minds. While you read this, just know your college self is proud of you for sticking through the challenges and for always remembering to “just keep swimming.”
Now, Ms. Lyons (you sound so official now!), while I don’t know a lot about the future, I do have some pieces of advice that you should keep in mind, when life becomes crazy in the classroom.
Continue to let creativity drive your instruction.
It is so easy to take the simple way out and come up with a one size fits all worksheet for your students to do. So. Easy. Do not fall down that rabbit hole. Sure, sometimes a worksheet is probably the best tactic to use for some lessons. Worksheets are not evil by any means; however, if the students can do a hands on project…let them! Let them explore different subjects through experiments, art, and creations. Allow the students to let their imaginations run wild! Students will be sure to remember “that fun project in Ms. Lyons’s class” far more than the 763rd worksheet of the year. If you are not enthusiastic about the lesson, the student’s won’t be either. Teach in ways that you are passionate about and be the teacher that students are ready and excited to learn from each day because learning is so fun in the classroom–like Ms. Frizzle!
2. Know when to take a break
You tend to be a very busy lady. While you enjoy taking on on lots of different tasks, know when to take a break! If you become burnt out quickly, because you neglect to take a break, this will translate into your teaching and your students will catch onto it. Go to bed early. Do a face mask. Watch some reality TV! If you do not take care of yourself, you will have an awfully hard time taking care of the little ones. You must tend to your needs and well being. I know life can be stressful but it is important that you know your limits and boundaries. Don’t be like Hamilton–know when to take a break.
3. Sometimes lessons will be amazing! Sometimes they won’t. That’s okay.
Sometimes lessons do not go the way you planned and you might feel a little bit like this:
While it is not fun in the moment, just remember no teacher is perfect. Everyone has off days, off lessons, and sometimes we put in a lot of work to something that might flop! With this, it is important to remember that it is not a reflection of you. You are a great teacher. You will continue to be a great teacher, after a lesson that maybe did not meet the mark! Guess what? It is in your mistakes and “mess-ups” that you are continuing to learn, grow, and become a better educator than you were before. Take these opportunities to refine your lessons and come up with something that works better next time! You preach to your students to “have a growth mind-set” and that “mistakes are okay!” Take your own advice. Mistakes happen. Teachers are not perfect. This is not a reflection of you.
4. Stay Positive
It is about as easy to adapt a negative attitude, as it is to create a one-size fits all worksheet, that we talked about earlier. Don’t do it. Come into the classroom every single day with a smile (and a coffee…this will help you smile more, too). Do not let yesterday’s day effect today. Students bounce back and come with a new perspective everyday. Be the reason that your students are excited to come into the class! Dance around with them. Sing with them. Laugh with them. It is easy to be filled with negativity as the school year progresses because you might be feeling burnt out. Do not let this effect your relationships with the students, your lessons, or your daily attitude. Continue to find a silver lining and remain positive, all year long! If you come in with a positive attitude, the day will go much smoother and you will be much happier. Be like this teacher!
At the end of the day, just remember, your younger college self is very proud of you for persevering and chasing your teaching dreams. You did it. You rocked it & I bet you are continuing to rock it. Stay creative, stay positive, and take breaks when you need to. Now, go boogie with your kiddos.