What I Learned in 2013

It has been a really long time since I posted and it has been a truly insane couple of months. But as this year comes to a close and I’m thinking about the year gone by and the new year coming up, why not use New Years Eve to ponder what I’ve learned from this crazy roller coaster of a year. I look back on the last 6th months alone: I graduated, went through five weeks of intensive training, moved out of Southern California for the first time ever, and started teaching wild sixth graders. I think I’ve probably even learned more than I have taught so far. So here’s some of those things.

1. You are stronger and more resilient then you ever thought. Being a first year teacher alone is a challenge unlike any other. Being a first year teacher with only five weeks of training is like being thrown in the deep end of a pool with a half a floaty. After seeing one of my coworkers quit a few months in, I questioned my own ability to make it through this, especially in November, which is it’s own story of resilience in itself. But I made it to the major benchmark of all first year teachers – Winter Break – a little worse for wear, but still alive and kicking.

2. Change is scary, change is intimidating, change isn’t fun when it first happens, but eventually it gets kind of worth it. Sometimes it even gets really worth it. Graduating UCSB was really a sad moment for me. I left my little heaven on Earth and the people I had met there slowly scattered back across the western sea board like spilled marbles on a tile floor. Moving the Nevada was terrifying, I knew very few people starting out. But despite all of this, I found that Las Vegas is a really cool city (not quite as cool as Santa Barbara but it’ll do) and I met some amazing people who I am proud to call my friends. As for teaching well, that’s many lessons unto itself.

3. Teaching is hard and frustrating. It’s my first year and I know it’s going to get better, but whoever says teachers have it easy either lies or needs to try teaching. Secondary lesson within this one, it’s hard to keep 11-year-olds engaged in a single lesson for two hours (again this in itself has many many lessons, but I won’t bore you with all of them). Teaching requires multitasking and an ability to think on ones feet. I realized about a month into the school year that I probably make a good 150 decisions, very quickly every 2 hours. So there’s that. Also, grading and lesson planning take a lot of hours, not all of which exists in a day, which leads me too…

4. Sometimes you have to choose what to include and what to leave out of your day and sometimes for your mental health you need to leave out some things that you probably shouldn’t. Sometimes you need to pick lesson planning over grading. Sometimes you need to prioritize making handouts for the next day over lesson planning. And sometimes you need to pick watching Supernatural and eating chocolate over both of those, because you’re so close to a nervous breakdown that your administration is starting to worry about you. And sometimes the choice you make is wrong and it will come back to bite you in the long run, but really you just have to do the best you can with the knowledge you have and how you feel at the time.

5. Probably the most important I’ve learned this year. Be kind to yourself. This lesson, while the shortest and simplest, took me the whole year to learn. I won’t regale you with all the stories it took to learn this, but essentially it all boils down to this: if you don’t treat yourself kindly, if you stress and beat yourself up over every little thing, nothing is going to make you happy. So don’t beat yourself up over the little things (one of my resolutions for the new year) and every once in a while, blow off what you think you need to do to treat yourself. Be good to yourselves. In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

So with what I’ve learned this year I put together my resolutions for the next:

1. Exercise more, which really for me means dance more.

2. 20% more fun (thank to a friend of mine for that one).

3. Make my lessons more engaging.

4. The perennial but it always gets broken very quickly, stop picking at my cuticles.

I have a lot more to learn and I can’t wait to see what next year has to throw at me. I’ll close out with my favorite quote from Douglas Adams (a lesson I learned in 2012) and I try to remember as I go throughout life. “I may not have gotten where I intended to go, but I always end up where I was intended to be.” Good luck on your journey’s in the next year and a very happy New Year unto you all.


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