After eleven years of teaching, I still don’t exactly count myself as a seasoned veteran teacher, but I am by no means a newbie anymore. There are moments from my first year of teaching that I play back in my mind and just cringe. And when I think about the kids that were placed in my room, on my roll, during that fateful first year, I feel like I owe them an apology of sorts.
I mean, they made it. They’re okay. They are perfectly normal tenth graders now. All by the grace of God. Because there were days when I was just a mess.
So, to the ones who had Mrs. Givens during my first year as a public school teacher, I have a few apologies to make…
I’m sorry that I almost lost half of you on the first day of school during bus and parent pick up time. (Hey, there are 25 buses. 25. Buses. And about a million cars.)
I’m sorry that I never took you out to recess for the first half of the year for fear that you would never line up when I blew the whistle.
I’m sorry that I took you all to the restroom at the same time and made you all stand in a line every day silently while you waited for the entire class to have a turn in the restroom.
I’m sorry that I made you pull cards for talking in the hallway (talking, mind you, not yelling).
I’m sorry that I didn’t do math stations.
I’m sorry that I taught exactly as the book told me to teach. I said exactly what it told me to say. I didn’t have time or confidence to sit down and think of better ways.
I’m sorry that I didn’t know what to say when you showed me your scribbles and scrabbles and wanted me to “read” it.
I’m sorry that you did so many worksheets.
Yes, if I was able to do it all over again, I would do it very differently. And the cool thing about being a teacher is that we do get to do it all over again each year. We are not perfect. Things happen each year that we would like to change. So we do. It’s a wonderful perk of being a teacher.
I have learned some very valuable lessons over the years. I have learned that I don’t have to say exactly what’s in the manual. I have learned that I don’t have to do exactly what the other teachers are doing…and they don’t have to do what I’m doing. On the flip side of that, I’ve learned that my teaching friends are extremely wise and creative, and collaborating with them is a gift. I’ve learned that the majority of young children are not out to “get” their teachers, and that if they are corrected kindly and allowed to practice desired behaviors, they quickly do what their teachers want them to do. And most of the lessons I’ve learned about teaching, I think the Lord has used my students to teach me.
So while I apologize to my students from the first year, I also have to thank them and let them know that they actually played a very special part of my career…
Thank you for making me laugh. And actually, you made my husband laugh and my mother laugh and my grandmother laugh. Because I talked about you all the time. I told your funny stories and sayings to my family and they loved you almost as much as I did!
Thank you for lining up at the whistle when I finally took you to recess in January.
Thank you for working hard on all the worksheets I gave you.
Thank you for enjoying your activities in kindergarten for the most part. I stayed each day until supper time getting ready for the next day. One time on a Friday I got blocked in by the football game traffic because I stayed so late. So I’m glad you enjoyed your days.
Thank you for telling me how good I smelled.
Thank you for telling me how pretty I was.
Thank you for telling me how nice I was, even when I wasn’t.
Thank you for telling me I was a good teacher.
You probably taught me more than I taught you that first year. You taught me how to love my job. You taught me how to manage a roomful of kids. You taught me how to get half of you to the buses (25 buses. 25. Buses.) and half of you through the millions of cars to your car. You taught me what kinds of activities were more meaningful than worksheets. You taught me that I could be a good teacher. You made me a teacher.
I can look at my class picture from the first year and still remember all of your names. You all look happy and content, which gives me hope that maybe I didn’t scar you for life! (By the way, I look like a child in that picture. Maybe it was because I was 21!) I don’t think I will ever forget you. Thank you for the part you played in my life!
P.S. And to the ones who had me the year before that as a supply teacher (when their teacher had a baby), I’m reeeaaallllyyyy sorry. That’s a whole other post for another day!