My first year as a teacher is officially behind me. Suffice it to say that it was a wild one. As I enter my summer break, I take a moment to reflect on good experiences from the past year and the things I would like to improve.
The good experiences
In all honesty, I do not look back on my first year with pride. I have struggled with my self-esteem a lot, so every little setback came as a hard blow to me. Eventually I started making a list of things I am good at in my job in order to regain confidence. Here are some of the good experiences I wanted to highlight.
My first time as a personal tutor
This year was my first time as a personal tutor, something which I had been wanting to do for a long time. I loved being able to see students progress on their personal paths and help them out with more than just the English subject. I found it quite a grateful job, too, to see students find their place in school. Fortunately, most parents were content by the end of the year as well. I even got a couple of personal thank-yous!
My first time teaching high school students
Previously I only taught certain level and age groups, but this year I finally got the chance to teach basically any group I wanted. It is why I had always planned to get my master’s degree.
Teaching high school students was definitely the most interesting and fun experience for me. I found them an engaging age group where we got to have different conversations. I am very proud of how far my students have come and I really liked the connection I had with them. Hopefully next year will be just as pleasant!
My first time teaching with iPads
One of the things in education that bothers me the most is how much paper is wasted. You print out hundreds of worksheets for entire classes, and they all disappear into textbooks and backpacks to never be looked at again. So when the opportunity arose to teach with iPads, I gladly took it.
I found this another interesting and challenging addition to my learning path as a teacher. I must admit it was a bumpy trial, because I often didn’t have time during the regular work week to delve into extra learning opportunities for my one class with iPads. I was pretty overwhelmed by lots of other things. However, I still see a lot of opportunities here and have vouched to get on with it more next year. To be continued!
I have been a positive teacher
According to my students, I have been a positive and enthusiastic teacher through and through. They noted I always seemed happy to see them and “would never show if I was feeling down“, one of my students wrote. Some even said they always looked forward to my classes because of this.
This means a lot to me, because there have been times where I was really struggling and I felt very guilty for how little patience I was having with my students. Turns out that to the contrary, my students actually found I have a lot of patience with them. One of my students even wrote I would gladly explain the same thing five times if they still hadn’t understood, which is funny because I am sure all teachers know how exhausting it can be to explain the same thing over and over again!
I am an expert
I know and I love my subject. I have never been so insecure in my life as I was this year (due to personal reasons), but time and time again I proved to myself that I am 100% competent with my job. I just need to believe in myself a little (well, a lot) more. My students also wrote that I give clear instructions, am always willing to help them, and put in extra time for those who need it.
I suppose fear of failure and imposter syndrome have made me anxious about my work a lot of times, even though formerly my insecurities never affected me at my job much. All the more reason to worry less and… therapy more 😉
How I would like to improve
I am a perfectionist at heart, so at the moment I am trying hard not to dwell on all the little things that I think I must do better. There are a few things, however, that I really would like to work on next year. Here are the three main ones.
Establish a more personal connection
I can be an expert at separating work from private life, but the truth is that I work in a very humane field where personal connections are really important. So, in following years I want to show a more honest depiction of myself. That does not mean I am going to share every little private detail with them, but I think I can let loose a little more. For example, I have made the decision to “come out” as bisexual to all of my new students next year, so they’ll know I am part of the LGBT+ crew. I didn’t want to be mistaken for straight any longer and I feel quite strongly about increasing the visibility of bisexuals. So, from now on, I will be introducing myself not just as the English teacher, but explicitly as the English teacher who isn’t straight.
The reason why I think this is important not so much for me, but mostly for my students, is so that they can see that not only do we not live in an entirely straight world, but also anyone can be whatever sexuality. I realised that there may be students around school questioning their sexuality, but they don’t get to see a lot of adults doing the same. Therefor I think visibility is really important.
I would like to be able to plan ahead more next year. Pre-corona, I was often living from day to day in terms of planning my lessons. During the lockdown, however, I got the chance to plan ahead with weekly tasks, something I am hoping to continue next year. I expect it to be easier as well, because it won’t be my first time teaching these classes. Hopefully it will also give me some space to be more creative and add variety to my classes.
Start “real” conversations
I would like to be less worried about starting real conversations. I think my personal insecurities have led me to avoid serious topics to a certain extent, even though there are many I passionately speak about in my personal life. I always want to be an expert before I teach something, though, and that has been holding me back. In many ways I am aware I hold a privileged perspective (i.e. I am white and cis), so I often don’t feel like I am the right person to start certain conversations. I am hoping to turn that around. Again, it is all about confidence.
Teaching: a life-long journey
Teaching is a life-long journey of personal and professional development. This is why the job is so challenging, but at the same time enjoyable because it’s so different from day to day.
As teachers, we never stop learning. So I would like to ask: what are the things you want to keep doing, and what is something you would like to improve? Of course you can also answer these if you’re not a teacher. Would love to hear your thoughts!