Sometimes courage is that quiet voice
at the end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow".
-Mary Anne Radmacher
I first came across this quote as an education student at Molloy College. I remember it was tacked up on the wall and I paused to read what it said as I made my way to class. After reading those lines, it was almost like exhaling breath I didn't know I was holding. It was so reassuring to think that you could be courageous by admitting it all wasn't going as you wished it would- but you could try again tomorrow to get it right. As I embark upon this new adventure in blogging about my life as a teacher, this quote came back to me as the right name for this blog. After 13 years of teaching, I find myself struggling still to get it "right" and always trying again tomorrow to be better and do better for my students.
This year, in particular, has been a year of great learning for me. I began my teaching career in 6th grade, teaching language arts, reading, and science to multiple classes. The following year, I took a position teaching a special education, self-contained class of 5th and 6th grade students. Then, in my third year of teaching, I switched back to general education and became a kindergarten teacher. Three years- three different teaching positions. I was petrified, at first, to be a kindergarten teacher but soon it felt like my destiny. I loved teaching kindergarten and in time, I learned many strategies and methods for working with such young children. While teaching kindergarten, my personal life changed greatly. I went from being a single teacher, living at home with my parents, to getting married, buying a house, and having two children.
While my life changed, kindergarten did too. The expectations, the curriculum, the assessments- it changed drastically during my 10 years in K. It didn't feel like the right fit for me anymore. When an opportunity arose at the end of last year to teach third grade in September, something inside me insisted I ask for the position. The rationale part of me reminded myself that with two young children at home, it might not be the right time to make such a big move, pack up a huge classroom with 10 years worth of "stuff" and start all over again. My heart said I desperately needed the change and would somehow handle all the hard work. In life, I've found I can't go wrong when I follow my heart and my principal agreed to let me teach third grade.
So back to the learning. Everything has been new for me this year. How to set up a classroom for third graders. The books I need to buy and display. The school supplies third graders need each day. English Language Arts. Math. Science. Social Studies. What third grade reading and writing should look like. What third grade math skills they need. How much homework to give and what type? Questions, questions, more questions. Every time I think I find an answer, I end up with more questions. There are many things I am struggling with and more days than not, I worry I am not doing a good enough job.
As I reflect, I see that it is important for me to pay attention to these feelings during this year of disequilibrium. When you know something like the back of your hand, you kind of forget what it's like to NOT know, to be confused, to struggle. As teachers, we need to remember this feeling because our students feel it often. How do you ask for help when you don't even know where to begin? I've been asking for help all year and I am so grateful to my third grade team and instructional coaches who have been so generous with their time, expertise, and materials. It's just that, for me, even with all the amazing support, I still have to piece it all together for myself in a way that makes sense to me.
So, that is what I'm doing. Piecing it together, trying each day to be a little better than the day before. On the really rough days, I take a deep breath and exhale slowly, remembering that courage, sometimes, is the quiet voice that promises to try again tomorrow.