Letter to my First-Year Self.

For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.

Advice to a First Year Me:

Dear Julie,

You will have five “first years” in your first 15 years of teaching. Your first year at Murray High, your first year at Bellevue West, your first year at Bowling Green State, your second-first year at Bellevue West, and your first year without English classes.

On the plus side, this means you have multiple chances to learn from mistakes you will make this year. Mistakes like grading a 20-page Lord of the Flies study guide for 120 sophomores. Mistakes like not following through on consequences with that rowdy class of mostly senior boys. Mistakes like taking yourself way too seriously, which will happen way too often in your very first year.

Make all of those mistakes. Make them repeatedly (like the Lord of the Flies study guide that didn’t ever die, even at Bellevue West) because eventually you will figure it out.

You will figure out how to be truly compassionate and helpful to a student who is stuck.

You will figure out how to have a sense of humor, and during your second-first year at Bellevue West, when a kid in the front row murmurs “That’s what she said” after another kid’s innocent comment, you will laugh. You will laugh while also trying to not laugh, which will cause the whole class to laugh…YOU WILL LAUGH IN CLASS.

You will figure out how to balance your time, though it will take breathtaking advances in technology to help you with that.

And even when you get your dream job of advising a newspaper, you will figure out how to only work 50 or 60 hours a week, instead of the 75 you are working this year.

And now the sad news: in 15 years, you won’t remember most of those 186 students you have this year.

But you will keep a journal and jot down high points and low points, and they will sustain you as you continue to grow.

Have a great first year of teaching. I promise you will get better, even as the pressure on your job will get worse. You will find ways to coexist with unrealistic expectations and national, state, and local politics.

And 15 years from now, you will have your absolute dream job, teaching content you adore, and your good days will far outnumber your bad days. Keep your head up, and remember, it’s all about the kids.



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