Being a wallflower in high school, a socially-behind-the-times girl starting undergrad, and the I-don’t-know-what-the-sam-hill-I’m-doing first-year teacher, my personal confidence took a grating. Luckily, by my third year as a teacher, I found a simple, one-step rule to building the confidence I was lacking for so many years. It’s almost too simple, you might not believe me, but just keep reading.
To set up the scenario, my first year teaching high school was a HUGE debacle. I was stepped on by my students, sat in my assistant principal’s office weeping, cried on the floor under my classroom desk in the fetal position; we had incidents with the sophomores and Beat Pill speakers being hidden in various student’s backpacks with music blaring, and one freshman got clobbered with a snowball in the face during a fire drill. It was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination. I was told that over time my confidence would grow, and I’d land on solid ground, and everything would be fine. (Much help that seemed at the time.)
So I did the only thing my twenty-two-year-old-self thought necessary and went out and bought a pair of snakeskin, nude colored heels from Target to match all the pink I wore, and learned to walk not-so-awkwardly down the hall.
I should probably add that I’m 5′ 12″ (you read that right), so I’ve never bought a shoe with a heel above 1/2 an inch. Well it seemed to work, as I was now 6’2″ and could see my students at the far end of the hall skipping my class, and once they saw me, they would meander over for a dreaded 90 minutes of mayhem.
The High Heels worked for about 30% of the time, until the to-do list got longer, the expectations for sponsoring extracurriculars heightened, and I had to turn in my first-year-teacher card.
(It was nice to pull out in a pinch.)
Luckily, first years come to an end, and my learning curve was steep. I was able to make lots of fixes over the next year, and now three years later, I’m reaping the benefits. (You can read about “The Breakfast Club” antics and catch up on my now seniors.) But, I still lived with the fear that I would be fired for being an awful first-year teacher, or my contract for year two wouldn’t be renewed. Happily, I was signed up for the second year. Despite my head still being attached to my shoulders at the end of year two, I still continued to lack confidence and started looking for a quick fix.
So I bought my first red lipstick.
But that didn’t bring me home.
Over the course of time, I felt sure that I would receive tenure at the end of year three. They hadn’t fired me for stupidity yet; I was established in my department, ran numerous extracurriculars, and met all the professional goals I’d set for myself as a college grad AND the seemingly impossible one of keeping my job. Also, I was able to type lessons in order, smile at every meeting, and get the kids to turn in their essays on time.
And suddenly, something happened.
I stopped caring.
I don’t care anymore.
I didn’t care if they gave me new classes, changed my schedule, or switched my committee. I stopped caring that I was not writing my lesson plans as fast as the teacher next door who had been there for 8 years. I stopped caring that not all my former students loved me. And I stopped caring when I got a parent complaint about a bad grade.
My not caring about all the ‘incidentals’ of the job, and not constantly trying to ‘compete’ with others was replaced with something much better and totally unexpected.
I didn’t have to keep up with anyone. I could make my own rules about the teacher I was going to BE.
MY RULES. MY WAY. End of discussion
I don’t care about that parent complaint. I am letting their kid have an honest grade for the first time in their life, and they will thank me later.
I don’t care about all the students who never visit after I teach them. I have the best breakfast club IN THE WHOLE COUNTY.
I don’t care that I’m not dressed in Kate Spade or Calvin Klein like teacher X or student Y. Everybody in the school recognizes me because I’m ‘the-teacher-that-wears-those-lovely-skirts-alllll-the-time’.
I don’t care that I’m not able to sponsor four extracurriculars, teach all AP, and coach a sport like teacher B. I have two activities that I’m known for, and have built a fabulous rapport with my students and parents in the community.
I don’t care. I’m just fine. And it feels GREAT!
‘Welcome to Ms. Anne’s Programme. My Turf, My Rules.’
You see, it was not the high heels that broke into the confidence bank, or the red lipstick (that I still have in my bag) or the need to get over my first-year-teaching-blues.
The lesson here was to be ok with doing things differently, from what I liked to wear, to working at a pace I enjoyed, to setting up my lessons the way I chose.
It was up to me to explore and traverse and discover what I wanted to do and be as a teacher. What fashions I would sport. What decorations would go on my classroom walls. What system I would use for phones, computers, turning in work, setting expectations, arranging the dog-gone desks, for goodness sake!
Talking to my seniors this year, they’ve told me that something innately changed during my third year. ‘I didn’t let people step on me anymore,’ they said. And they are my second-harshest critics.
So, forego three years of teaching and just take the advice: STOP Caring about teh competition you created in your head and DO IT YOUR OWN WAY! You will thank yourself later.
See you out there!