Be the change, being a teacher, being me, new year

A Letter to Those Who are New, Myself Included…

image from icanread

It’s that time of year where many thoughts in North America turn toward our new year ahead.  A year filled with so much possibility that we can hardly contain our energy.  Or a year filled with so many obstacles that we are not sure where to even start.  Now is the time for advice it seems, more posts will probably come forth with nuggets.  But this post is not just for those that are new, it is for myself too.  I am teaching a new grade (hello 7th grade!) in a new fabulous district (hello Oregon!) with amazing new people (hello team!).  So this letter is a reminder to me…

Dear Pernille,

Be fearless.  I know you are having nightmares, the one where the kids wont quiet down and you end up standing on top of a table screaming at them just to take attendance.  But that’s not how it’s going to be.  It may feel that way at times, but you will never, ever have to stand on top of a table screaming at children.  At least not for bad reasons.  So let it go and realize that although the next year will be filled with scary, it will also be filled with new.  A new chance for you to spread your passion for reading and writing.  A new chance for you to build connections, to be a part of a team, to work for a common vision.  How often do we get to say that we get to start over again and really mean it?

So have goals.  Be brave.  It is okay to present new ideas that you might not have thought out completely, but that you know in your stomach will probably work.  It is okay to try something and then have it fail.  It is okay to not have every answer.  It is okay to show the students that you are nervous like them, that this is a new adventure for you too.  It is okay to get excited about the latest picture book.  It is okay to let your inner dork shine.  And who are we kidding, I don’t think you could hide that nerdiness anyway.

Be true to you.  You have a vision for how your classroom should feel so make it work, but not just for you, but for all of those kids who come to you with their curiosity, their fears, their dreams.  They should feel safe in your room, much like you hope to feel safe with them.  Don’t ever think your words don’t matter.  They matter more than you will ever know, and you will never be able to reach them all but the trick is with teaching that you don’t know who you are reaching at what time.  So don’t give up on any of them, keep trying for all of them.  Even when you are sure they could not possibly push you any harder.

Don’t lose yourself in the job.  Yes, teaching is this all consuming amazing experience that we can live and breathe.  But you have children of your own that need you too.  You have kids at home that need their days listened to, their curiosity protected, that need time with just you.  Not you and your computer.  So give yourself fully when you are at school, but then leave it behind when you drive home, open up to the children at home, they need you too.

Say yes to as much as you can.  Say yes to that that scares you  We only grow when we push ourselves.  But don’t say yes so much that you cannot find the time to breathe.  There may be more opportunities than ever coming your way and so many things you would like to do.  But just don’t.  Teaching is enough.  Being a parent is enough.  You have nothing to prove to the world, that is not your job.

Don’t be ashamed of being you.  You may not always have the best advice.  You may not always be an expert.  You may not always know what you are doing, but you still have worth.  Your ideas still matter.  You still matter.  Your excitement can spread.  Your newness may be an advantage at times.  Your energy and curiosity will help you.  So don’t stand in your own way.

This year will be an adventure, you already know that, but this year is just another year.  Even on your worst days, it will only be a day.  The tide will always turn.  There will always be more good than bad.  More success than failure.  And you can only do your best, you can only bring everything you’ve got, you can only do so much.  There will be much outside of your control, but how you feel about it is in your hands, don’t forget that.  Smile, laugh, think, reflect, reach out, be you, be kind, be honest, wonder, and try.  Yes, this next year will be scary at first, but anything amazing always.  I have a feeling it will be just fine.



20 thoughts on “A Letter to Those Who are New, Myself Included…”

  1. Such great reminders for all teachers. Starting in a new district as well this year (after 10 comfortable years in the last one) and I need to remember so much of what you wrote.

  2. I am a new reader to your blog and I have to say that each time I read it, I get lost for at least an hour! There are so many nuggets of inspiration and great ideas that my head spins. (Blogging with kids?! Yes! Global Read Aloud?! Yes! Skyping in the classroom?! Yes!) This post especially resonates with me as I am returning to teaching this year after a long absence. I will be at the middle school level teaching 6th and 7th grade Language Arts in Washington state. I’m excited, terrified and calm about it all at the same time. Thank you for voicing my thoughts exactly! Now I’m off to explore some more…

    1. Heidi, welcome to my blog and thank you for the compliment. You will discover there doesn’t seem to be much of a rhyme or reason to it other than it is whatever I am thinking at the time. Hopefully you will find other things that are useful to you as well.

  3. As a new teacher, I really appreciate this post – I think I may have to print it out and leave it on my fridge! Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. I love your posts as you always make me think about what I am doing and choices I am making. I’m excited for you to start new! I used to live in Oregon (for about 20 years) and am wondering where you’ll be teaching? Your new school is so lucky to have you!! I hope you’ll have a better journey there than in the past. I hope they welcome you – principal and team members with open arms, hearts, and minds!!
    Are We There Yet?

  5. What a wonderful post! Year 24 as an educator coming up for me this year, and yet I will be a newbie as well. I have moved to the high school to be the librarian after 13 years at a middle school. I am thrilled and anxious and excited and terrified all at the same time. I will bookmark this post and refer back to it often, I can promise!

  6. Love this letter, Pernille. I felt like you were writing to me. I, too, am starting a new teaching assignment this fall and your words spoke directly to me. Let’s be kind to ourselves and always stay positive. It’s going to be a wonderful year!

    1. Really, we need to. We hold ourselves to such high expectations and then beat ourselves up much harder than anyone else would. We have to be as good to ourselves as we are to our students.

  7. Thank you so much! This is exactly what I needed! Wish I could have had it to read and reread for the past 16 years. Thank you!

  8. This post really spoke to me, thank you Pernille. I blog about teaching too and today wrote about goal setting: you have said a lot of what I was trying to say but didn’t articulate. Especially where you wrote about the nightmares (why do we have these???) and being brave.
    I teach secondary but your blog often leaves me yearning to be a primary school teacher!

    1. I think I may have jinxed myself because I had one of those nightmares last night, I truly think it is our subconscious trying to get rid of our fears before the big day. Or at least that is what I tell myself!

  9. I am moving to a new school as well this year, and I am feeling excited and overwhelmed. This post really helped me to calm down about the process and see it for what it truly is-an opportunity for growth and development. 😀 Thank you for the thoughtful post. (I am following you now. I am your stalker, but in a good way.)

  10. Thank you, Pernille. This is a great letter, with lots of reminders that are important fir the coming year. I’m switching grades (from 4 to multi-grade 4-6), streams (new to Montessori!), and co-teaching in the fall, and the closer I get, the more excited AND nervous I become, looking forward to new while yearning for familiar. This is helpful!

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