In this blog post we talk with a first-year and a veteran teacher about what a first day back to school is like. We get their perspective on nerves, excitement and new beginnings heading into a new year of school.
Montana Murff, Joyner Elementary School, First Year Teacher, 2nd grade
Q: What made you choose education?
A: When I was growing up I always loved school. One day in 3rd grade I did a project and my teacher told me that I would make a great teacher. I guess it just got in my head but ever since then I just wanted to be a teacher.
Q: Do you already have any first day jitters?
A: Yes! First year teacher on a first day is very intimidating. I did student teaching from January to May 2014 so I didn’t get to experience the first day. All of the procedures were taught when I came in so it was a little bit easier then.
Q: What are your hopes for the first year?
A: I just hope I’m able to manage the classroom and make the children show growth in academics, as well as socially and emotionally. I’d really like to make an impact on each of my children that will benefit them.
Q: Have you been nervous all summer about the upcoming school year?
A: I’ve had all summer to prepare, so I think the nervousness happened at the beginning. Once I got my classroom, got things prepared and hung up those feelings went away.
Q: How much of a learning process do you expect this year to be?
A: Everything is new this year so it’s going to be a learning process for every teacher and not just me. They’ve changed not the curriculum, but with the Common Core standards there’s a different type of teaching implemented. Also, they’ve changed from week to week teaching to unit teaching, so it’ll be new for everyone. I don’t feel so much like the Lone Ranger, which is good because everyone will have to work together.
Q: Do you have a first day memory as a student that stands out to you?
A: I remember my first day of kindergarten, because I was so incredibly nervous. I’m the oldest of five children so I was the first one to experience going to school. I remember getting there and the teacher putting me with someone that she thought I would be attached to. It ended up being my best friend for all of that year and we stayed best friends all the way through elementary and high school.
Q: Last question, packed lunch or cafeteria food?
A: Both! I like to change it up! I don’t want to get tired of one of thing.
Laura Russesll, Joyner Elementary School, 20 years teaching, 1st grade
Q: Why do you keep coming back to teaching?
A: I love it. That’s how I’ll know I need to retire when I don’t love coming back every year. You can’t do this if you don’t love it. It’s not always the perfect job but I just love it. I love working with the kids.
Q: What made you choose to do education?
A: I had always babysat and been around kids, but it was actually my aunt who influenced me to pursue it. She was a preschool teacher in Austin, Texas, and she won teacher of the year once. I don’t know why but she just influenced me. She got her degree later after her kids were grown and that was an inspiration to me.
Q: What’s the greatest part about being a teacher?
A: Making a difference in a child’s life. Hopefully, you can also make a difference in the parent’s lives. It’s great to show the children that they can be successful and help them to believe in themselves so they don’t have to depend on someone else. That way they don’t have to look to someone else for the feeling of acceptance. If I can help a child be independent and believe in him or herself, I’ve made a difference.
Q: How was your first day of teaching?
A: I was a nervous wreck! I learned real quickly that whatever you learn in college does not prepare you for that first day. It is a trial and error thing and you either have it or you don’t. It’s not something that you can work into and you maybe get better at. I was so afraid that I was going to do something wrong and that was going to have eternal consequences for a child. I was scared to death that I was going to mess up a child.
Q: How did it end up going?
A: It ended up going great. I was able to stay home with my two girls so there was a long gap where I didn’t teach, but when I went back full-time I still had the same feeling. I have that feeling every year because it’s an awesome responsibility that is charged to you and it’s frightening to think what you hold in your hands. It’s a little like that every year but it’s gotten easier. I still remember my first class and how sweet they were.
Q: Do you still get those first day jitters?
A: Yes. Every year I do. I don’t hide under the covers but absolutely do get the jitters. But I think that might be another clue that I might need to call it a day if I don’t get at least a little bit anxious or jittery.
Q: Tell me about a first day that stands out as a teacher or student.
A: I can tell one of each. We’ll do student first. I had a brother that was a year ahead of me in school and he was the perfect child. He was smart and every teacher loved him. I was not quite as smart and I liked to talk a lot. I remember my first day of fifth grade and my teacher said “So, you’re Tom Wilke’s sister?” I said yes and it went downhill from there! (laughter) I was not quite what she expected and she let me know that.
Then my first day of teaching in Tupelo, this is going on my seventh year here, the teacher had to leave because her husband was transferred for work in November. However, it was her first year and she had not had a lot of classroom management so when I walked in there was nothing in the room and the children had had nine weeks of doing whatever they wanted to do. I’m a structured teacher and I love to have fun but there’s a time and a place for that so I told them that. So, we had to start over completely.
Q: Are you still learning to be an educator?
A: Absolutely. Three years ago I got my National Board Certification because I didn’t want to ever be one of those teachers who said I’ve done this for 30 years and I don’t need to change. I don’t want to do that. I’m always looking for ways to add new and different things. If I ever say I don’t need change then that’s time for me to go. You can’t do the same thing you did 35 years ago because kids are different today.