I interviewed Danielle Mizuta on the Amazing Teacher Podcast back in November of 2013 when she was the State lead mentor with the Hawaii Department of Education Teacher Leadership Institute. Recently, I asked her to write a guest post here on SITC, and she agreed. Danielle is also currently serving as an Autism Consulting Teacher with the Windward District in Hawaii. I am so grateful for Danielle’s encouragement and support of SITC. She is dedicated to helping new teachers find their success, and that is why she is the perfect guest for this blog. Thank you, Danielle!
Here is Danielle’s post:
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
I know what you’re thinking, ‘You live in Hawaii! What do you know about winter?’ True, here in Hawaii if the temperatures in the early mornings dip below 70 degrees, we all freak out and wear the one scarf we own paired with the 2 sweaters we have in our closets! I’d like to say it’s all relative; but social media and technology have shown what a rough winter some areas have had this year.
I did 2 years of undergrad work in Colorado and remember looking out my dorm window in March at the powdery snow soaking up the sunny day. I put on my slippers and shorts (flip flops to the rest of the world) and headed out the door only to find myself immediately turning around and racing back to my room with a mild case of what I was sure was frostbite on my toes. The sunshine deceived me! It looked like a beautiful day! I can laugh now at what I know but that day was one I’ll never forget.
Fast forward to my first year as a teacher. Too many days to count were just like that day I thought I knew what to expect only to turn right back around and feel deceived. How could my undergrad program not have prepared me for this? Why is this job so much harder than I imagined it would be? Why have I not made movie worthy strides with my students like Lean on Me, Dangerous Minds, and the Freedom Writers teachers?
Teaching is like the seasons, there are days we lift our faces to the sun and bask in the warmth, and days where we trip and fall face first into some melted dirty snow.
The best part about Spring, is having an opportunity to rejuvenate and reflect upon our teaching practice and start thinking about the ‘new life’ you are going to bring to your own profession in the months and years to come.
Ellen Moir, founder and CEO of the New Teacher Center, has said beginning teachers move through various phases during their first year of teaching. http://www.newteachercenter.org/blog/phases-first-year-teaching
When you walked into your first classroom and started setting up, you were very likely in the “anticipation phase” where you were ready to change the lives of your students and have an ideology about what the year was going to be like. That first month of teaching though, can quickly become overwhelming and put you in “survival phase” where you were hit with the reality of conditions you weren’t anticipating.
I clearly remember working crazy hours after school, and through the night just to get through the next day! Forget the week, or quarter, and when was I supposed to revise that curriculum map/pacing guide that I was already 2 weeks behind in????
Moir describes the next phase as the most challenging. About 2 months in, you hit the “disillusionment phase” where all those extra hours have caught up to you. You’re also faced with grades for the first time, parent teacher conferences, an initial evaluation by your administrator, and a legitimate concern about if you made the right choice to go into teaching. You might have even gotten physically sick, so you needed to write a sub plan for the fist time as well. I remember my husband clearly not understanding how my day was ‘supposed’ to end at 3pm yet I was up until 1am trying to figure out what I would do in science the next day because we had no textbooks. The struggle is real people!
Thankfully, the calendar and holidays have worked in our favor and allowed us a chance to reconnect with family, a social life, and some time away from our schools. I’m sure you were still thinking about your students and your job, but I hope you had time to visit with family or friends, and take a nap!
This “rejuvenation phase” is where we can find ourselves right now. You have a better idea about your school culture, learned some coping skills and have a much better handle on the curriculum than you did that first month of school. You’ve made it through the first half of the school year alive! You even can recall some successes to celebrate. It’s time to pat yourself on the back and get excited for the Spring!
I look at these first three phases as the worst winter you’ve ever had. Without facing that adversity and getting through it with your resilience and grit, you would never be able to have the immense appreciation for spring!
Don’t get me wrong, high stakes testing can still deflate us, and if these test scores are tied to your pay (like they are for me L) the stress follows. This is where I refer to N. Dallas Kindergarten teacher Matt Gomez’s classroom rule, “Be brave.” http://mattbgomez.com/ adapted from Amy Murray http://missnightmutters.com/
In a couple of months, the end of the school year will be upon you and you will have MADE IT. You will have completed the hardest, most challenging, and most rewarding year of your career. You will have an opportunity to reflect and make plans for what is going to be a continuous improvement in your professional growth towards being a master teacher.
You’ve made it through the ‘winter’ of the school year, here’s to looking forward to the spring! New life, new ideas, new successes! Have you made your ‘crazy goal’ yet? I have! Mine was to start a class blog, and while it isn’t what I first imagined, I did it, and my crazy goal was to get every parent in my classroom to visit, comment or ‘like’ at least one post. I’m not there yet, but the blog is active, and over 60% of families are active! I’m checking the users every Friday and my action plan is to keep inviting and including a ‘hook’ in my email for the other families who haven’t joined it to not be able to resist the urge to visit the blog!
Don’t forget the adversity you have faced, but don’t dwell on it either. Be brave. Relish in the new life, opportunities, and successes you are bringing to your classroom. Be Amazing!
Find Danielle on Twitter at: @kohola11
On Pinterest at: Teacher Stuff