As we were working on a companion animal project last week, one of my 9th graders asked "Ms. Wingert, what is the last thing you learned?" I chuckled a bit and replied "I am learning everyday."
Here are a few things I have learned in the last year:
1. The things you are most terrified to teach, you might just love.
Small Engines & Equine Science were the classes I dreaded all summer long. How was I going to teach a year long course on each of these topics? After all, what did I know about horses and small engines? As the year progressed, I gained confidence in both content areas and today I even fixed the garden tiller for my mom! Equally important as content knowledge, were the students in these classes. Initially, they were a bit difficult to 'break the shell' but as we worked together throughout the year, they were some of the most enjoyable students, always willing to put a little extra effort forth.
2. 9th graders are a handful.
Ok, maybe I already knew this. My student teaching experience taught me that, but nothing prepared me for a class of 28 boys & 2 girls. Somedays, it was a miracle I came back to work the next day and other days were mildly successful. I am still working on an effective solution to this one.
3. The 15 passenger bus = 15 backseat drivers
It's not all that difficult to drive, but when you fill the bus with a few backseat drivers and try to navigate around the cities things gets a bit more complicated (we won't even mention the road construction). I may have caught a few curbs and it's safe to say that I won't be getting an actual bus license anytime soon. (After all, I have never been known for my driving skills.)
4. You will never be completely prepared.
I spent much of the first semester trying to figure out what I would be teaching the next day. Rarely did I have plans more than one day in advance. Some days it was a complete experiment, and other days the classroom bounded with excitement. Even when I finally started to plan more than a day in advance and figured out what worked & what didn't, there were days when I threw the plans out the window to deal with a more pressing life lesson. Sometimes, there are bigger lessons to be learned than the ones we have planned.
5. God is in control.
I have reminded myself of this many times throughout the last year, as I have rode the roller coaster of a first year teacher. One especially prominent example was on April 14th, the day of our FFA Banquet. I had spent part of the weekend at my parents house and was making the trek back to Stewartville on Sunday morning. The roads were a slushy/icy mess and I wasn't 10 miles from home before I landed myself in the ditch. After my dad came to save the day, I headed back home to wait an hour for the roads to clear, I still had plenty of time. After the 2nd attempt, I made it to Stewartville and was finishing up some last minute plans when the lights went off in my room. Thinking it was just the sensor, I waved my arms to motion the lights back on. Nothing. This was not the motion detector. It was the power. After talking with the janitor, banging on the cater's door, calling the FFA members and shedding a few tears, I called the banquet off, only for it to come on 15 minutes later. The decision had already been made and I was not about to undo all that I had just done. We held the banquet the next night and everything worked out perfectly. God was in control.
As I watched the Stewartville High School Seniors walk across the stage on Friday, I couldn't help but think back to one year ago when I left the University of Minnesota grinning from ear to ear in anticipation of my new job at Stewartville High School. I was nervous & excited but looking back, I didn't have a clue what was in store. I knew that I would be working with 9-12th graders in a variety of courses, but nothing could prepare me for my first year of teaching. It has been filled with ups & downs, tears & joy, anger & pride, mistakes & accomplishments. I have made friends with colleagues (who have been my saving grace), built relationships with students & hopefully taught something that will stick with my students in the years to come.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me throughout the year!
Bring on year 2 -- there is much more for me to learn!