Cami Cox, BSEd ’20, Elementary Education
Cypress Elementary, Leander ISD
My first year of teaching was entirely different than what I expected it to be. Going from virtual to in-person to being quarantined to the constant revolving door of students, change was the name of the game! I grew so much this year, and I will carry the lessons I learned throughout my teaching career.
All the different experiences I had through Baylor definitely prepared me for my role. While a TA and Intern in Waco, I learned that I don’t know where my students come from or what love and support they receive at home. I would tell my students that they are loved daily. Every child has different home lives with different needs, but one thing they all have in common is the desire to be loved. Being able to model love to my students daily was my greatest joy.
In September, my class came back in-person! I focused a lot on teaching my students emotional regulation strategies. My students were overall very sweet. They clearly missed interacting with friends their age, but they had to relearn how to do so positively. Once my students developed more confidence in themselves, they could more easily learn what they needed to. Bridging my students’ academic gaps was tricky, but it was so rewarding to see how much they had grown by the end of the year.
As a new teacher, I spent a lot of the year figuring out what worked best for my students and me. My behavior management system was “Leader Dots.” A student would get a dot on their card each time they were a “leader.” When they filled up their card, they got to pick something from the treasure box. Halfway through the year, I added a whole-class behavior management system. We had a bingo card, and each time the whole class was following an expectation or got a class compliment, we would add a card. When they got bingo, they would earn the reward.
Having both an individual and whole-class behavior management system helped my students learn how to follow expectations for themselves and how to work as a team. We started the year sitting in rows with no shared supplies. Throughout the year I would rearrange the room and eventually we got to sit in table groups! It was a very exciting day but required lots of extra expectations and modeling how we work in groups. One of my students told me, “Ms. Cox, I know you’re a new teacher, but I like that you change stuff up. It makes it fun!”
I’m really glad she thought so because this year was full of change!
In February, I got COVID, and my class was quarantined. My families were incredibly supportive and helpful in this time. My students were able to learn virtually from another teacher while I got better. Then the craziness continued when we were out for an extra week due to the winter storm. I missed my students greatly. When we returned, it was the sweetest reunion.
Toward the end of the year my students were all sick of each other. Our class was a family and we started to act like it. Some friends were saying some not-so-kind things to each other. We had a class meeting to discuss our words and how they can hurt or help people.
When we were brainstorming ideas of kind things we can do or say. One student said, “We can pray for our friends.” As a public-school teacher, I couldn’t say much more than how nice of an idea that was. But it made me realize that every child wants to be successful and kind, but sometimes they don’t know how to do that on their own.
I was able to come back for Baylor’s commencement this May. Getting some closure from college was sweet, and my students loved to hear about what graduating from college is like.
This year was incredibly difficult, but I made it through because of the support I received at my campus. My team was an amazing resource and encouraged me through all our daily challenges. My administration was so supportive of my students and me. I feel incredibly blessed that God placed me at Cypress and put these amazing educators in my life.
If I could give a first-year teacher some advice, it would be to take time for yourself. There will always be more things to do. But sometimes good enough is good enough.
I will never forget this group of students or this crazy year. Here’s to hoping next year has a few less adventures!