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Being Your Own Island

My first year of teaching was the hardest year of my life. I know everyone says that, and it is true. You can be the most prepared and organized person in the world but there is nothing that can prepare you for that year. But out of all of the experience I gained, both good and bad, one thing I’ve learned in my first year of teaching is something I’ve decided to call “Being Your Own Island.”

For most of the year I felt like I was stranded on the desert island of Room 112. Now that made it sound like it was the worst experience, but in all honesty, it wasn’t all bad. I think that this is something all teachers feel at some point in their career. It’s the freedom of being alone, but support-less isolation.

There are a lot of amazing things about being your own island:

It is a whirlwind of organization and decoration of your own classroom that, as a new teacher, I was super excited about. Finally my room, my organization system, my decorations. That is something that all new teachers want, their classroom. I think that was my favourite part. Finally something that was mine.

When you do practicum or substitute teach you are always being watched and judged. Always under the watchful, judgemental eye of another. That always gave me anxiety. When you have your own room you don’t feel like that. Teaching is a whole other world when you can do it the way you want. You can create your assignments, teach the way you want and believe, and build relationships with your students. Sometimes I do stupid, goofy things with my students. I make an ass of myself, play silly games or come up with weird assignments. If eyes were on me all the time, I wouldn’t be able to be myself.

New teachers take note, you don’t know who you are as a teacher until you are on your own, running your own classroom.

There are a lot of not so amazing things about being your own island:

It is overwhelming, your own room, your rules, and your system. School does not appropriately prepare you for all of the crazy little things you have to accomplish and remember.

No Support. Correction. Ineffective support. The assistants I had in my classroom this year were superheroes in my eyes. As someone who doesn’t enjoy asking for help, they never needed me to ask. They saved me when I needed them too and they were the ones who I would talk to when I had class struggles. Outside of that I felt like support was hard to come by. When you aren’t in the classroom experiencing the struggles it is hard to communicate the experience. And as a new teacher, you don’t want to appear weak, you don’t want to go running to your administration with every problem, so you swallow the little problems, solve them and move on. But when you ask for help and nothing comes of it, thats when you stop asking for help.

Emotionally, being your own island will make you want to quit. At christmas time I contemplated how much I loved teaching and if it was worth it. No one knows what you are going through, and they don’t understand when you try to talk about it.

I have been told that I do not communicate well. I know I was told multiple times that everyone is dealing with the same things you are. But, no, they weren’t. Everyone needs to realize, especially in a small school, that no one has been in that situation before. No one has taught that subject matter and to that make up of students before and no one ever will teach in that situation again. Despite what I have said, there is nothing I would change about this year.


About mshenielson

"I am a teacher, all I need are minds for moulding." I am a new teacher in the Southern Alberta area and loving every minute of it. All views expressed in this blog are mine alone. Follow me on Twitter @NielsoTeach


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