I’m on Summer Vacation! 🙂
I made it.
When I think back to how this school year started, it feels like it was YEARS ago. I’m not kidding. Last August, I poured my heart out in THIS POST saying how much anxiety I was feeling and the next thing I knew, school was postponed a week due to the Holy Jim Fire.
And then . . . I struggled all throughout this school year. I was not my best self. I struggled with everything. From curriculum to classroom management to committee meetings, I struggled.
It was humbling, frustrating, and exhausting. I kept saying to anyone who would listen that I was not myself. That my brain wasn’t working. That I couldn’t remember the most simple things! I was late to SSTs and almost missed two super important IEP meetings. THAT IS NOT LIKE ME.
I felt so out of sorts!
By the way, don’t feel nervous that I’m leading up to some doctor diagnosis of Kristin’s brain is no longer functioning at full capacity and she will spend the summer with a special electrode hat on her head to reboot it.
Nope. Apparently, at last look, the wrinkles on my forehead (which do NOT give me character, thank you very much to the friend who recently said so, but NO) mean I am old, and remembering things without writing them down and/or writing them down but forgetting to look at them is just a symptom of said old-ness.
Anyway, then I wrote THIS ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT POST. And I ended the year on a high. I did. I REALLY DID.
That is not to say I was perfect in any way. I am NOT here to tell you that I adjusted my attitude and BAM – butterflies flew out of my nether regions and rainbows crossed the sky over my head and puppies were cuddling with me and breathing their sweet puppy breath all over me.
I still had my moments. I can’t tell you how many times I repeated this phrase inside my head: Don’t let their behavior affect my behavior. Don’t let their behavior affect my behavior. The reason I can’t tell you how many times? I can’t count that freaking high.
I had the Sunday Blues practically every single weekend.
Keeping it real, folks.
I tried. I tried and I tried and I tried.
I created lessons that I thought would be fun and guess what? Some were and some were not.
I made my kids laugh because I let go and I was silly.
I learned how to floss (the dance) almost perfectly.
My kids learned how to be respectful. One example? When I said good morning or hello, every single one said a greeting back to me by the end of the year. They would look me in my eyes and GREET ME!
They learned how to take turns. They stood up for one another. And I think we had one day where NO ONE cried. ONE WHOLE DAY WHERE NO ONE CRIED.
All of my kids made progress. In reading and writing and math. They became experts in the solar system and plants and bats, and the American symbols, and the continents, and pioneers, and countless other things.
In May, the last month of the school year, we hit our stride. Steve or my mom or Kerry would ask me how my day was and I would say REALLY GOOD. For days on end, I would say I HAD A GREAT DAY! MY KIDS WERE GREAT!
It took us until MAY to become a family and work like a team. I have no idea why. I know some of it was definitely me. I couldn’t get out of my own way. And I know some of it was because I had some students with some significant needs, and those needs weren’t being met, and so that would spill over into our classroom and create chaos.
I don’t know. I really don’t. This particular classroom dynamic just took longer. Shoulder shrug.
So it was challenging.
But we did it.
The hard part is that we finally did it and then we only had a month left together. That’s the hard part. LIKE WHY? HELLO?! NOW WE ARE A FAMILY AND NOW WE ARE BREAKING UP. WHY?!
Once again, I’m going to say that the kids had no idea that I was on the struggle bus.
And my room parent (she is amazing and I love her to pieces) always complimented my kids. She would say how sweet and thankful they were at each of our class parties. AND THEY WERE!
Then it was the last few days. And we could feel it. Time was running out. And one kid might say this is the last time we’re going to have Sharing or another one might say this is the last Junie B book you’re going to read or can we do the Birthday song one more time just for fun?
And then it ended.
It is always bittersweet. One of the best things about being a teacher is that we get to start over every single year. But one of the hardest things about being a teacher is that we have to start over every single year.
I always tell my kids that I’m the saddest on the first day of the next school year. When I have these kinder babies who are not used to the full day schedule, who don’t understand how I work, who are new to the lunch benches, the big playground, the supervisors, etc . . . and then I’ll see my old kids as big second graders just walking around campus knowing what to do like it’s no big deal. And I’ll think COME BACK, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THAT LINE OVER THERE WITH THAT SECOND GRADE TEACHER?! YOU’RE MINE! COME BACK! PLEASE! And I’ll wonder who all these little stranger kinder babies are in my line and I’ll want to cry.
Happens every year.
My kids laughed and laughed when I said Stranger Kinder Babies, but it’s true.
And then someone said so you thought I was a stranger kinder baby?
And I nodded.
And then, around the lump in my throat, I said but now you’re mine.
I also always tell my kids that, too.
Once you’re one of my kids, you’re always one of my kids.
I’ll usually start the phrase, and they’ll finish it.
There you go.
And now here I go . . . before I get too sentimental and start to cry.
I had that year too (24th year of teaching). As teachers, one of the best things for us is that we start fresh every year! My upcoming class will have 9 siblings that I have had throughout my days and have loved. 9 families that already know me and requested me because they loved me too. This will be a year to remember.
Have a great summer.
I had a rough year in which I had to move rooms 4 times due to a flood, mold, dust, etc. I was on the edge…several times. Angry at the circumstances all the time. Barely keeping it together. But I had one of the smallest and best groups I’ve ever had and I thanked God every day for my littles getting me through. They did not deserve a year like this but boy, did they handle it well. Better than I did. The end of the year is bittersweet. We are now crammed into half of the elem library with none of our stuff for 2 more weeks. What am I supposed to do with them!? But I sure am going to miss them when it’s over. Hope you enjoy every minute of your well-deserved summer break! Here’s to a better school year next year!
Thank you for making me feel like a real human being who is allowed to make mistakes. You are a lovely reminder for me to focus on my successes while reflecting on my mistakes and give EVERYONE in my classroom a little grace each day to be perfectly imperfect. So glad your year came round to something you can cherish and tuck away in your experiential bank of learning. Love your posts! They could easily be bound into a nice little book for newbie teachers as a guidepost for what teaching is all about. Happy Summer!
I completely understand your situation. I struggled most of the year and it wasn’t until April that I felt like we were getting our class family together. I underwent cancer treatment last summer and didn’t start school until the 7th week and the other prek teacher that I had been with for 14 years transferred to be closer to home. The new teacher was brand new, straight out of college. It wasn’t a total disaster but I just felt each day was a struggle.
We did finish the year much better than it started and for that I’m grateful.
Mary H Russell says
Yes! except I”m a Kinder teacher, so you first grade teachers get my Stranger Kinder Babies at the beginning of the year and I’m so jealous! This year I looked longingly at my now first graders and was so sad. And then…..I fell in love with the best class ever! It’s like have a child and then having another-you don’t think you can love your second like your first, but it happens! Happy Summer!
Thank you for sharing. You’ve been a big comfort to me this year. I’m thankful for you & for you sharing the ups & downs being a first grade teacher. I’ve been teaching about as long (25 yrs) & even went through the the podcast discovery at the same time. Thanks again & enjoy your summer!
Could not relate more to this post! Some years are truly challenging. I read your attitude adjustment post and adjusted my attitude too. Thanks for sharing! You are my favorite teacher blogger!
Jenni Taylor says
You have described my entire year in this post … only I’ve got 2 more weeks. Thanks so much for putting it all down for me. on paper. And I always feel the same way on the first day of school. I look fondly at those 2nd grade lines wondering why they are not in my line and why I am staring at these Kinder babies. Enjoy your summer.
Kathryn Leneck says
Wow. You summed up being a first grade teacher perfectly. You made me cry. You’re year paralled my year. And I live in the Midwest. Every first grade teacher in my district had a year. There must have been something in the water when these kiddos were born. 💕
Karen Lyon says
Great post. I wish you could have worked with one of my best friends, who taught for quite a long time and often felt this way. (Especially after a really nasty car accident that left her with some residual health effects.) You would have been great support for her. She doesn’t teach anymore — and I really think she shouldn’t — because she never got over that hump, could never get to the “Don’t let your behavior affect your behavior.” While I tried to have her back, she lived in southern California and I live in the Bay Area, so I was very limited. And my struggles are different. If she’d known someone like you, maybe things would be different. Maybe God had you go through that so that if and when you work with someone like my friend, you’ll know how to help him or her. Have a good summer!
I am a first grade teacher too and had a challenging year. So much of what you said resonated with me. Thank you for writing this honest piece.
This was my year also, I considered letting it be my last year several times. I could early retire three years ago and this is the first time I really considered it. I have always loved teaching but my joy was not there this year. I said please stop talking at least 30 times a day. I really loved the little tykes but it was so hard. I decided to try another year because by May we were doing so much better and I liked teaching again. I have always loved my job and I know that I can again.
I wrote three resignation letters before Christmas! But God…and Dr. Kevin Lehman’s books! But we were victorious! I have three days left with my students and all I can think of is I wish I could be their teacher next year!
Rachel walmer says
This was my year last year. We started 2 weeks late due to Hurricane Harvey. We got it together by March and then everything fell apart again in May. My 18th year teaching and by far one of my most challenging groups. I’ve never had a dynamic like it before. Ever. It really messed with my head : what am I doing wrong? How can I change the chemistry of this classroom? Why does _____ child continue to exhibit _____ behaviors? Why are all of my tried and true methods failing? Fast forward to this year and my group was amazing and was a school family by November And I realized again that I DO love teaching and you CAN see change in students that is positive. Thanks so much for this post!
I had some students with some significant needs, and those needs weren’t being met, and so that would spill over into our classroom and create chaos…yes, this! In our building, if they do not come in with an IEP and haven’t been to preschool—good luck. I had a student come in who was completely non-verbal this year and clearly mild (at the minimum)—almost no help for her the entire year other than speech twice a week.. Thankfully, she was surprisingly like a little sponge and we could actually make out was she was saying most of the time by the end of the year. But I have had way worse situations. This year as we were assessing our incoming kinders I was so depressed. I knew I just could not do this…starting from scratch one more year. So, my group as a whole this year was pretty amazing and I approached my principal about looping—he said yes! I’m so excited and love the idea that I know what I’m getting and we know each other and I didn’t have to say goodbye (I’m sure there will be lots of ugly crying at the end of the year). When I made the decision to move out of K—I knew immediately it was right. So glad things came together for you at the end of the year. I never though I’d leave K —and after a break, I would be open to going back I think—but seriously, you might consider a grade change.
Jill Jones says
Oh Kristin, I just loved this post and felt its realness right in my heart. Thank you for always being honest. This job, particularly we early ed teachers who teach it ALL, is so hard. I love that you show real life, that even for a veteran it’s tough (yet rewarding) stuff. I think that so many new teachers leave within 5 years because all they see is Pinterest Perfect, and when it’s not at all like that, they don’t know how to deal with it. Thanks so much for spending the time on your blog!
Thank you for writing this! I also had this type of year. I had taught kindergarten for 20 years and had to make the move to third grade this year. I actually had many of the students before when I had taught kindergarten. It was a very difficult year because my father was very ill and died in October. (Sadly, my mother had actually died three years ago when I had this same group of students.) I never felt like myself all year. I struggled with my own emotions. I struggled with classroom management. I struggled with the curriculum and how to make it my own. This group of students are great individually, but some of the personalities were very tough when combined. I truly questioned whether or not I should even be a teacher anymore. I will say that I never stopped trying. By the end of the year, things had improved some and it was difficult to say goodbye to them. So, while I spent the year wondering if I should continue teaching, now that I want to, I may not be able to. Unfortunately, now I am on the chopping block and may not even have a teaching job next year due to low enrollment. I am glad that you got through your year and were able to reset. I truly appreciate your post! Thanks for helping me to know that I am not alone!
Kristen, I am going to be teaching first grade for the first time this coming year. I am reading all your posts to gather the flavor of first grade. Now, I’m not a newbie to teaching…..I’ve taught for 30 years, just never first. 3rd, 4th, 5th. So I’m nervous and excited. Can you imagine what I’m thinking in my pretty little head????……songs. Songs. I need to learn songs for sooooo many things that happen in a school day with firsties. I’m hoping to be a good teacher and experience the joy of first grade.
Love it!! You will LOVE first grade!! And yes – SONGS SONGS SONGS! ALL THE SONGS!!