Finding My Place As A Teacher

“What’s your secret?!”

“How do you get your students to the circle so peacefully?”

“How do you keep your kids so engaged?”

“When do you have time to plan your lessons?”

So many questions still left unanswered, or come up throughout the career of a teacher, that were not quite so covered in Education 101. Three years into teaching and I have so far found that there has been no better training than the lessons taught to me by my very own students. Them and the peers I work alongside.

Before I go on, I have to first admit that teaching is a second life career for me. I first spent almost a decade working in Corporate Communications while I lived in New York City. Having always longed to be a teacher, when my husband and I decided to move our young family of three across country to San Francisco, CA, I jumped at the chance to go back to school and earn my Masters of Arts in Teaching.

How smart of me to go back to school during my time as a stay at home mom. I didn’t have to work and I’d have plenty of time to study, earn good grades and take in everything I could during my time as a student teacher. I was 30 years old, my son was three, and we just moved 3,000 miles away from the family and friends we spent all our lives around helping us and providing support that I was too naive to have realized I was getting so much of.

Needless to say, it was a tough road. If it weren’t for the support of my husband, and the fortunate placement of some pretty incredible people that have been placed in my life along the way, I couldn’t have done it. But thanks to them, my ambition and type A personality, I graduated with a 4.0 degree from a top rated University and was well on my way to becoming the educator I had always dreamed of being.

Soon after I was even offered a teaching position as a second grade teacher for a school in East Oakland. I was on cloud nine. My timeline was all coming together… I should also mention that a month after graduating I gave birth to a second son who was a mere eight months old when I started working again after a three year hiatus as a stay at home mom. All my check boxes were getting ticked off.

Move cross-country, check!
Experience being a stay at home mom after working non-stop since high school, check!
Get Master’s degree, check!
Have another baby, check!
Become a bonafide teacher, check!

Does it sound like I am bragging? Because I’m not. Like all those celebrity couples that the media loves to place on a pedestal, watch in amusement as they attempt to live up to the live’s the tabloids created for them, then later watch their relationship experience a great fall…I must admit my first year teaching was the most difficult and gut-wrenching experience I ever had.

It was like a punch to the gut. I spent countless hours planning, preparing, fixing up my classroom. I remember aching to get my hands on those classroom keys! I memorized my class roster. I spent weekends the summer before my first Fall as a teacher at Lakeshore. I was already spending money before I was even making any! I was so excited.

Then reality hit.

Teaching is not for the faint of heart. Especially in a school serving an area’s most vulnerable and under-served young people. I was in for it. My type A personality was about to get a humble lesson in humility. My students were my best teachers. That said, I did not feel ready for the challenges that faced me that first year.

In just the short two years since, I have grown immensely, learned so much, and learned to take whatever advice I could get with an open heart and an even more open ear.

I’ve since also grown to appreciate the importance of things like social emotional learning, and building a culture of love and safety before all else, including the curriculum.

It is my hope that this will be a place where teachers come together to share their experiences, share their expectations, their hopes, and their ups and downs.

As I think back to my time as a student teacher, I remember admiring so much the classroom management displayed by my host teacher and asking, “Can you tell me exactly what goes into your classroom management techniques?” After sharing and showing me some of the things she does, she said, “…but you’ll have to figure out what feels right to you.” And while that is so true, it doesn’t hurt having resources, tips and tricks shared along the way!

I have grown to value the importance of good and ongoing mentorship. It is with all this in mind that I look to build a place where weekly blog posts and podcasts can live to help me and any teacher looking to build a resource of mentors and resources can come to as we seek answers to those unending questions of how to best support our students and live up to the needs our children have as they grow and learn all they need to know to go out into the world as competent well-rounded people.

By Jennifer Khadir

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