So another year begins. Tomorrow is the first day of in-service for the school year. As I sit here and think about the upcoming year, a storm of emotions come over me. Tomorrow begins my 9th year as a teacher. I struggle wrapping my brain around this. I don't think I am considered a "new" teacher any more. I'm now a veteran.
What makes a teacher a "veteran"? Years of service? Number of graduate credits? Grade level taught? Money made? Promotions given?
This year, I will begin my 4th placement in the educational field. I have taught 1st, third, ESL and now Read 180 and System 44 for 5th and 6th grade. I have worked under 5 principals and numerous vice principals and interim principals. I have decorated and made six different classrooms in five different buildings feel like home to students. I have worked in two different districts. Every experience I have had in each of these settings has been amazing. With each experience, I gain more tools in my backpack that help me be a better teacher for my students.
With all this being said, I think back to my 8 completed years of teaching and realize I am not even close to being a veteran. I'll explain in a moment. This is how I would describe or categorize the teaching stage I was in.
Year 1 - Floating Stage.....Basically, my backpack was empty. I went into the classroom with this ideal picture in my mind of what teaching was and what Miss Ely's classroom would look like. That picture in my mind was based on what I was taught in college and my experiences as a student teacher. The children sat and listened. They raised their hands. They were all reading on grade level. It was perfect. In reality, my first year was far from perfect. My students did none of the things I pictured. Students ran my classroom. I was exhausted. I spent many late nights in the classroom. I rearranged my room a hundred times. I called on colleagues to help me manage the room. I had bronchitis and laryngitis twice. I refused to take off because that meant I had to plan for a sub. I was sinking quickly that first year. I did whatever I could do to stay above the water.....I was in the floating stage.
Year 2-3 - Experimental Stage - These are the two years that I walked into my classroom and refused to let my first year happen all over again. I would implement a teaching strategy, realize it didn't work, drop it, and implement something else. I continued to spend late nights in the classroom. But I wasn't floating anymore. Students were responding to what I was implementing. But I knew it wasn't enough. I had to do more. These were the two years when I became brave enough to try new things. Some failed, some didn't. But I was willing to experiment.
Years 4-8 - Evolving Stage - I have gained confidence at this point in my career. While I have had many changes in leadership, schools, and positions, I have spent and will spend many years in this stage perfecting and revising the craft I love so much. My learning does not stop here. Every year is different, therefore, I have to modify how I teach. I do not pull out my lesson plans from the year before. I create new lesson plans each year. I might do the same activities, but I may change the way I use them. I may develop a better way that challenges the students more than before. I continue to evolve as a teacher.
What stage comes next? I have no idea. I hope that I stay in this stage for a little while. Evolving means that I am changing with the times, the new initiatives, the new students, and the new communities. I am changing as my environment changes. That's a good thing in my opinion.
As for being a "veteran" teacher? I hope I can call myself a veteran as I sit down to retire in 30 years, and use what I have learned and know to teacher other inspiring, young teachers.
Here is a picture of my new "evolving" classroom in my new building. It will continue to change throughout the year to meet the students needs, just as I will.