The Beginning Teachers and I will have our first group meeting of the school year on Tuesday. Since the initial meeting in August, I have had weekly contact with each of them and I know some of them have been chatting with one another. Tuesday afternoon will be the first opportunity for them to do a bit of scar sharing.
I've been trying to decide what sorts of events to share from my first year of teaching. Do I tell them about the open house when the recently released convict stepfather (who was later found to be molesting his stepdaughter) yelled at me for two minutes in front of the other parents because I wouldn't tell him what grade the girl had? Or the kid who walked in from another class (on his first day at our school) and punched out two teeth from the mouth of one of my students? Maybe I should tell them about the custodian who showed up at my house stinking drunk one Friday night insisting he should come in for awhile...or the student counselor who suddenly kissed me in his office? (I was younger and cuter then and sexual harassment was not an issue.) Do I share my sixth-period-class-from-hell with the noobs...and how relieved I was when one of them (who was a 17-year old freshman at the time) wrapped his car around a telephone pole the next year? How about the purchase order the principal gave me to buy some Everclear because we had no lab grade ethanol for labs?
Most veteran teachers tend to look at the first year of teaching as a form of hazing: a trial by fire. In order to be accepted into the fraternity, you have to run the gauntlet. I think that the mentorship we provide in this district is a positive step. It doesn't eliminate all of the things that one just has to face head on in the classroom, but at least there's a structure in place for guidance.
I've already had a couple of individual sessions with three of the beginning teachers who needed a shoulder to cry on. They weren't actually crying, mind you, but their frustrations as they try to wrap their minds around the whole job are understandable and they just wanted someone to care that what they were doing was damned hard work. I think the group meeting on Tuesday will be therapeutic, too. We'll have some treats, try to find a few things to laugh about, and then probe their thinking in other ways.
Do you have a great story (good, bad, or ugly) from your first year in the classroom? Leave it in the comments---it'd be great to have you join us.