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The Difference a Year Makes: Pushing Forward with Confidence

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The first ACE summer prepares ACErs to be first-year teachers extraordinarily well. Unfortunately, though, there are aspects of being in a classroom for which no teaching program, no matter how qualified, can prepare you. What do you do when Sandra begins throwing up smack in the middle of standardized testing? How do you mourn with the class when Miss Suzy, a beloved faculty member, returns to God? What do you do when a plump, old, white-robed Father Niccolo unexpectedly bursts into your classroom to teach Italian Christmas carols? How do you best express your gratitude and love when all of your students remember your birthday?


There will always be moments like these, whether you have taught for two or 30 years. Indeed, they continue to happen every day for me as a second-year teacher. Such moments no longer feel as daunting or disruptive, though. I can roll with the punches and still actively engage my students in a darn good lesson. The difference between this year and last? My store of confidence, which gradually built up throughout my first year of teaching.

Yet with great (and I use this term loosely) confidence comes great responsibility. While many of the initially daunting tasks of the first year are no longer challenging, new challenges have stepped in to take their place. More so than my ACE academic supervisors, my principal, or my mentor teacher, I am holding myself to higher standards. And I believe this to be true for each of my fellow ACErs. Differentiation, unit planning, after-school activities, one-on-one time with students, parent correspondence . . . regardless of the area, we want to exceed the accomplishments we made last year. We want to make a bigger difference.

It was a bit odd, starting my second year at Sacred Heart. Unlike last year, I was no longer the fresh new face on the faculty, the mysterious young male teacher joining the ranks of the seasoned female elementary teachers. The students are generally less intrigued by my existence (although perhaps this is something for which to be thankful). I am no longer finding new (well, new to me) supplies on the shelves of my classroom. Ultimately, the excitement inherent in entering a completely new experience, a new community of people, has worn off.

This does not mean all excitement is gone, however; it's certainly safe to say that teaching is a vocation that will never lack excitement. And the oddness that came with no longer feeling new stemmed from a gradually built sense of ownership and belonging. What was novel last year is now familiar; what I viewed with curiosity and wonder I now view with endearment. I am settled.

Every morning I oversee the car line as students are dropped off at school, a job I began at the beginning of last year. This year, though, the kindergartners no longer walk past me as quickly as possible. The seventh and eighth graders look me in the eye (I think it's safe to say they may even think I'm "cool"). My former students bring up concepts learned last year, despite rubbing sleep out of their eyes (side note: I can say I have former students!). And I am confident not only in my ability to teach but also in my desire to work even harder to make each of these students' lives better.