You Are Enough

Before I started teaching, I heard a lot about what to expect during the first year. But other than the (much maligned) “Don’t smile til Christmas” warning (that even as a baby teacher I knew was garbage), I didn’t hear much about the first day.

My eighth first day will be here in another month, and I’d love there to be some stories out there for new teachers to see about something that I’ve heard many educators commiserate about since I started.

My first day of teaching

My first day was terrible. Not in the “I’m supposed to say I was bad because I can tell I’ve grown since then and I don’t want to boast” sense either. It was bad.

I had first period off (which is great any other day of the year for this non morning person), but on the first day it just left time for the knots in my stomach to tie themselves into more dense knots.

Our numbers were growing, so we had portables set up for the first time outside. I was teaching in one, but I didn’t know anything different. I was just happy to have secured gainful employment in July. I would have taught anywhere.

I can remember it like it was yesterday: As I was walking back into the main building to get some water, the power went out. I was going to get a day reprieve! We couldn’t have school with the power out, right? Wrong.

My department head walked around the corner, and instead of telling me she would see me the next day, she said that they were working on getting everything fixed up as quickly as possible.


So I go back to my portable and begin to put on this ridiculous costume that I’m going to use on my first minutes of teaching ever. On top of my uncomfortable shirt and tie teacher clothes I put on a rain jacket. On top of that, I’m wearing my graduation robe. The plan was for me to start with the end (graduation) in mind, then point to how I was going to be their guide on the path toward that goal, and then end with the realization that I was the teacher who could get them there.

What actually happened was more like this.

I put everything on and begin to sweat. Blame it on the first day of school or on it being MY first day of school or on not having any power on August 25th in central Texas. Whatever is at fault, I’m really sweating by the time. Like beads of sweat I can feel. Not fun and not exactly how I wanted to start the day or my career.

I’ll spare you the details about the rest of the day and offer this summary: I pushed through the entire morning of classes packed with 30 high school juniors in a portable with no power for the video clips and slideshow I prepared or for the music I had carefully chosen to let them know I was someone they could relate to. Also there was no power for the air conditioning.

I remember sitting in the lunchroom thinking about what else I could do with my life. The morning left me embarrassed, frustrated, and pretty intimidated about actually coming back on Tuesday.

But I came back, and things got better.

Be yourself

The power was certainly a contributing factor in the great undoing of my first day. Really, though, there was a greater issue: I wasn’t being myself. I’m not the guy who dresses up or can pull off something like what I tried. I gave this a shot because a great teacher I had in high school started the year like this (though one of the outfits she wore was a cheerleading outfit and I do have limits). She was such a memorable and effective teacher because she was herself. Yes, she did the crazy “three outfits” first day that I tried to emulate, but really she was just being herself. She was an encourager, and she was our champion throughout the year.

I think that’s important to remember. Whether you’re a new teacher or a veteran, it’s not your job to be someone else. Just be yourself. You are enough.

I’m not saying stop growing or stop learning, but do know that you are where you are for a reason. You have an incredible power to influence the students who are in your classroom over the next year. Nobody but you gets that opportunity. It is an awesome responsibility and an incredible opportunity.

I love my job as an assistant principal, but, honestly, I’m a little bit jealous of the kind of relationships you’ll begin to develop with students in the coming weeks. Good luck to you. Your work is worth it. Thank you for the time you invest in your students.

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What can we do to help new teachers?

If you have a crazy first day or year one story, take time to share it. I think there’s a lot of good that can come from new teachers seeing that they’re not alone in those first experiences that can feel really defeating in the moment. Past that, take time to find a new teacher on your campus or in your district who you can help take care of this year. Those little bits of encouragement that seem like small things–a note, a Coke, or an encouraging word–end up being the things that get you through the day.

One Reply to “You Are Enough”

  1. I absolutely love this post! Thank you for sharing. I hope others will read and know that together they will go far!!!

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