by Ms. P, special education teacher
On the day I was first hired as a teacher, my principal told me that teaching was a magical profession filled with endless possibilities. I assumed she meant that children were magical little creatures and their minds were sponges ready to be filled up by teachers. While that may be true, she meant something totally different. Her excitement every year was fueled by the “do-over,” or, to be more eloquent, a new beginning. This concept would not make sense to me until I began my second year of teaching. Then it hit me!
Every September since that day, I experience a “New Year’s Eve” type of feeling, where I reflect and resolve. For me it starts with the plan book, blank and full of possibilities. I sit quietly with my book, and compare it to my last year’s book. My mind wanders to the lessons that were small victories for me, and to the bitter defeats that I wished had never happened. It is here, in the stillness of my plan book, that I reflect and forgive myself for the areas of my teaching that may have shortchanged my students. I balance that with the moments where I know I made a positive impact, even if slight.
The plan book presents me with the opportunity to make a new year resolution. What are my intentions for this year? How can I reach more students? Where will these kids allow me to take them? How can I balance academics with character education? Well, this is where I, and many of you are at this moment. If you think about it, it’s the “do-over” that keeps us coming back. No other profession allows for this restart that wipes the slate clean from the past and allows us to learn and move on.
I have incorporated this aspect of my teaching into the classroom as well. In the days ahead, I will ask my students to reflect on the last year they had, and note some areas that were positive, and perhaps some areas where they could have made better choices. From there, we set goals for the current year. It is the awareness of where you have been that allows you access to where you want to go. This gift of reflection and forgiveness is a life skill that is easily transferrable to any aspect of life.
So, to my colleagues, I wish you a “happy new year”! May the magic of the “do-over” empower you to reflect and resolve. Forgive, learn, do better, because our students deserve the endless possibilities you have to offer them!
Ms. P is the pseudonym of a special education teacher in Queens. If you’d like to write for the New Teacher Diaries, email email@example.com.