During my second ACE summer, I heard a lot of stories from ACE grads about the second-year teaching experience. Maybe it was because I asked more questions, or maybe it was because these seasoned ACErs saw the curiosity in my eyes and were more than willing to offer a few pieces of advice to an eager almost-second-year teacher.
Whatever the case, when August rolled around and I began the two-day drive down to Tampa, I felt that I had a sense of the struggles and joys awaiting me. I expected things to be different this time around, I would be better prepared for my lessons, more engaged with the school community, and much more responsive to the needs of my students. In short, I felt recharged from the summer and prepared to give more of myself to others.
When I arrived at the ACE house in Tampa, I felt like I was returning home. So much of the uncertainty that I had as a first-year teacher was gone. Instead of introducing myself with firm handshakes to a room full of strangers at the first faculty meeting, I shared hugs with friends after eight long weeks of summer vacation. At our first Sunday Mass, I exchanged smiles with the priest and other familiar faces in the crowd. I reconnected with past students who were headed off to college, and they were excited to update me on their lives, their worries, and their intended studies.
Though the advice was helpful, it did not prepare me for the distinct feeling of warmth and joy upon returning home. I realized that I was surrounded once again by the same community that had so openly welcomed me the year before. It wasn't the lesson planning or the classroom management that would make my second year different, but the feeling that I was returning somewhere I belonged.
This is not to say that I didn't encounter challenges during my first few weeks back. There was a whirlwind of newness that marked each day. New bedroom, new community members, new students, new classroom, new procedures, and even a new host of termites that decided to take up residence at the back of the physics lab.
I vividly remember my first day back to school, and it was as nerve-wracking as ever. While I introduced myself to class after class, I noticed something different about my interactions with the students. This time around, nobody asked the question, "You're new this year, right?" Instead, I overheard someone remark in the hallway, "Oh, my brother had Mr. Farchone for physics last year, and I heard he's in charge of Drumline, too."
No longer am I a new face in the crowd, I have become integrated into the school community. There is a sense of mutual familiarity between me and my students. I have a better understanding of the academic climate, the school culture, and their home lives. This is what has made the start of my second-year in the classroom so different, feeling much more aware of my students' needs, and having a renewed sense of purpose to help meet them.
Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows and request more information at ace.nd.edu/teach