Monday, May 14, 2012

Letter to Self

In my last post, I promised to make the most of the next 22 days of school, and we'll just say that is the reason that I haven't posted in a couple weeks.  In all honesty, I have made the most of the past two weeks, and they have absolutely flown by.  I can't believe I have less than two full school weeks left in my first year.  Two weekends ago, I took a mental break from school and road-tripped to Memphis with the boyfriend to listen to awesome music for three days at Memphis in May.  Last weekend, I went out of town to one of the most gorgeous weddings I have ever attended when one of my friends from high school got married.  I have to admit that I love my job, but these little mini-vacations have really helped to keep me out of a slump during this last month of school.  If I've learned one thing this year, it's that I am the best teacher I can be whenever I am living a balanced life.  That means having a personal/social life so that I can take a break from work.

With only two weeks left, one of which will consist of us playing outside during English class because I don't have to give a final, I gave my seventh grade students one final English assignment to complete for the year.  It's a Letter to Self.  Another teacher at my school does this assignment, and I think it's such a neat idea.  The students will write a letter to themselves, turn it in, and I will return it to them at the end of their 9th grade year.  Just think about how much growing happens in those two years.  They may all be mad at me for giving them one last big assignment now, but they'll be glad they have it to look back on later.  In a way, this blog is kind of my "letter to self."  Sometimes I go back to look at posts from my student teaching. or the time before I found this job, or even earlier in this school year, and I'm amazed at the growth I've made as a teacher and as a person.  The imperceptible baby steps we make each day seem so much more monumental when we look back on them from a distance.

In honor of my students' last assignment, I decided that I, too, would participate in the assignment and write a letter to myself.

Dear future Ms. Herring, 
Here are just a few words of advice from the "new teacher" version of you, learning new things everyday:

  • Go to bed early.  You are not only nicer, but you are better at your job when you get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Smile always.  A smile is the ultimate "fake it 'til you make it" cover up.  You can have absolutely no clue what's happening or be heavily opposed to what's happening, and a smile can help you survive until you can fix it or change it later.
  • Mistakes help you grow.  It's great to be a perfectionist, but you found a lot of perfection within your mistakes and monitored adjustments this year.  Bumps in the road keep things interesting.
  • Be a leader, a mentor, and a friend.  Above all, your job is not to teach infinitives and prepositional phrases.  Your job is to be a positive role model, a confidante, a secret-keeper, an encourager, a cheerleader.  During this year, the reality that teachers may be the only positive adult figures in a child's life has become terribly and sadly obvious.  Be the person your students may lack and supplement the positive people  that they do have.
  • You get out what you put in.  Enough said.
Everyone has a "thing," something that they're great at doing and inspired to be better at. However, not everyone gets to make that thing their job.  You do.  Appreciate that, enjoy it, embrace it.  Be thankful that each day brings new amusements and challenges.  This is your "thing." Be thankful for it always and never be a settler.

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