Gabby Salazar, BSEd ’18, Bethke Elementary, Katy ISD
Year one is done — it flew by! It pushed me, challenged me, and grew me immeasurably more than I thought possible. It was also so sweet to me — the grace and love my students showed me every day is comparable to the love and grace that God gives us daily. Man, did they love me well. On my toughest days, seeing those 23 sweet faces smile at me made it all worth it. I am forever changed and better because of those tiny humans.
I could talk for hours about how well the Baylor SOE prepared me! The opportunity to have so much experience in the classroom was definitely very beneficial. Not to mention, when you have a full year of student teaching under your belt (as compared to only one semester), you become that much more experienced and valuable in the eyes of an employer. I still hold onto the words of my professors and always keep their advice in the back of my mind when making decisions.
So much about my first year of teaching was amazing. Like I said before, my students loved me so well and made each day worth it. I am thankful for each of their different backgrounds and personalities that brought such a fun mix to our classroom. We learned a lot about loving those that are different than us, the importance of saying sorry, having a positive attitude and a growth mindset, and creating a culture of curiosity. I also learned how important your team is. I’m sure my team got tired of my constant “new-girl” questions, but they never let it show. They loved me through it all. My team prays for each other, we plan hang-outs outside of school (at least once a month, but it usually ends up being more), we collaborate, we support each other, we make every decision as a team, and we just truly love each other. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to be a part of a supportive and positive environment (because there will be hard days), and I am so thankful I have that in my team.
While there was so much to smile about, there were definitely challenges. One of the hardest parts about teaching was learning how to work well with parents (it took some time). I learned so much about parent communication from student teaching, but until your classroom is your classroom, you do not fully understand the work behind that. I had my sweet and wise team leader proofread around 100 parent emails throughout the year before I sent them. Another part they don’t really tell you when you sign up to be a teacher is all the paperwork you’ll have to do… but I learned that tracking student progress and data is just so important!
We had some fun times in first grade! Every dance party we had was a highlight — future teachers, GoNoodle is your best friend! Don’t be afraid to act silly and sing-along and do the dances with your kids; those are memories both you and your students will cherish. Plus, they might even tell you that you sing like a Disney princess (even though you probably don’t). Another awesome time we had was field day! I made my poor kids be the “Salazar Sloths” and wear neon pink. I got a lot of questions such as, “Wait, aren’t sloths slow?! We want to be fast!” We didn’t win, but we sure had a lot of fun (and laughs). I also loved putting a “fireplace” on the SMARTBoard around Christmas time; it made our learning environment so cozy! Finally, on the 120th day of school (we celebrate 120 instead of 100 because part of the first grade TEKS is knowing numeracy to 120!), all the kids dressed up like they were 120, and it provided some serious giggles! I could talk all day about all the fun times we’ve had; I was truly blessed with such a fun bunch of kids!
It’s so important to know that students will learn, but they need to know they are loved first. Often during morning meeting, I would just stop to tell my kids how loved they were. If not by anyone else, they’re loved by me. I made a point to tell them I believed in them and would be there to support them in all they did. For some students, showing them love meant leaving a little note on their desk, for some it meant dancing with them, and for some it meant listening to them read you something they’re excited about. Whatever it is that your students need to feel loved and cherished, find it – and give it to them. Meet them where they are and love them through it, because it will mean the world to them.
I learned that even if it’s the 99th question you’ve asked, go ahead and ask the 100th question, since you want to model best practice for the sake of your students. It never hurts to ask! (I also learned not to hit “reply all”… do NOT be that guy!)
Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and step back. Your kids might not understand the first time you teach something, but they might understand the sixth time. Teaching takes an immense amount of patience, empathy, and creative thinking. Being a teacher takes a lot out of you, but it gives you back even more. You will be loved well, and you will grow (big time). Teach those tiny humans how to treat one another, how to be kind, how to apologize, how to play fair, and know the impact you have is huge — even if you don’t see it right away. That being said, I am super pumped for year two! Bring it on!