Taking the Leap
By Jake Hicks, guest blogger
There are three words I’d use to describe how I felt during my first year of teaching in a public school: fear, passion, and unpredictability. Imagine yourself soaring through the sky in an airplane headed to your first day on the job. You’ve done your research, you’ve made a plan, and you’ve just framed your diploma, that very important document showcasing all the knowledge you’ve acquired over the past few years. All of a sudden they tell you to jump, three-thousand feet off the ground. No warning, no rope to draw you back in, no way to slow down. This is your first year of teaching.
As you start spiraling toward the ground, fear sets in. This isn’t a trial run anymore, and your mentor isn’t here to hold your hand. You become the decision maker, from your presence and tone of voice, down to the environment you create within your classroom. Every choice you make will have an affect on your learners and your own well-being. This period in time is critical for understanding who you are and who you wish to become. Keep in mind that you’re not alone. There are thousands of first year teachers simultaneously entering new and unknown territory, hundreds of professionals willing to share their ideas and resources, and dozens of staff at your very own school ready to support you. Not every one of them may have encountered fear in the same way, but they all share a similar passion for the work that they provide.
Everyone knows you don’t become a teacher for the paycheck. There are other forces that drive us forward and motivate each of us to work harder than ever imaginable. If you believe in what you do, then you’ll have the ability to impact a child's life even in the smallest way. This is one of the most rewarding and life fulfilling aspects of becoming a teacher. The joy radiating from a child's face the second you’re able to connect with them will change your life forever. Now don’t forget that you’re still falling. Hopefully now you’re able to take a breath because you’ve realized why you decided to jump in the first place. You can enjoy the wind flowing through your hair, look up into the clouds, and feel the warm sun beaming down upon you. However, as you continue to drop closer to the ground, the school year continues to progress more rapidly than ever before. You start to wonder, what might happen when you finally reach the ground?
Anticipating a soft landing you pull open your parachute waiting for it to deploy, but nothing happens. It’s a simple and uncommon malfunction in the manufacturing of the product. In this situation I believe most people would begin to panic. The uncertainty of what might happen next may leave some completely stunned, but to be a first year teacher means to expect the unexpected. There’s a certain level of unpredictability associated with this profession and it’s important to be able to think on your feet. Various occurrences and different emotions will all happen unplanned, so don’t be disappointed if everything doesn’t go the way you thought it would. The greatest educators in the world are able to reflect and adapt their teaching style to fit the needs of their students. Don’t let a simple malfunction stand in the way of your success. More than likely there’s an alternative solution, in this case, a backup parachute. So pull the cord, and continue your passion to educate and impact the lives of our future generation.
Jacob Hicks is a valued MAEA member, and middle school art teacher at Earl B. Wood Middle School in Montgomery County, Maryland.