By Heather Koozin, Fourth Grade Teacher in Southern California
I just completed my first year of teaching. Also known as the craziest year of my life. This is something I have been working toward for a long time. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was at least five years old. I loved everything about school and I wanted to be just like the teachers I admired growing up. So much so that I would often play school with my dolls. My closet doors were my whiteboard, covered with paper so I could write on it them, and I even assigned my dolls homework. I was pretty strict about turning in homework, which meant I was the one actually doing the homework and I’m really not quite sure why I did that. Essentially I was giving myself homework. Basically, I was born to be a teacher.
The first year of teaching is the most interesting, exciting, frustrating, and stressful thing. A lot of people describe it as “trying to keep your head above water” and that’s pretty much the most accurate thing I have ever heard in my entire life. I mean, you want me to be in charge of teaching tiny humans the essentials and not royally screw them up in the process? Seems simple enough, right? Wrong, so very wrong. I could sit here and tell you the ten things I’ve learned in my first year of teaching (actually, it would probably be more like 30) or I could give you a list of things that I would do differently if I had it to do again. Instead I am going to tell you the single most important thing I have learned as a teacher: building relationships with the students is the most important part of teaching.
It seems obvious, but it is easily forgettable. It’s easy to get caught up in the standards or test scores and forget about building relationships. Most teachers go into teaching because they want to change the world. We want to make an impact on our students that will go well beyond the ten months we spend with them. At least, that’s one of the reasons I went into teaching. I wanted to make an impact on students, I wanted to be part of the reason why they loved coming to school each day. What I didn’t realize is these students would do that exact same thing for me.
This was something that I came to realize when I began student teaching in a fifth grade classroom. These students were generous, sweet, smart, a little bit crazy, and downright hilarious. They wrote me the sweetest notes and greeted me daily with the best hugs.
I have a fairly unique situation when it comes to the school where I teach. I accepted a position to teach at the same school I completed my student teaching. During my first year, I was working with fifth and sixth graders, some of the students I had worked with the previous year. As a result, the conversations continued and the conversations got even better.
I became a teacher because I wanted to change the world, but mine was turned upside down, in the best way possible, because of these students.
Heather Koozin is a 4th grade teacher in Southern California. Heather graduated from California Baptist University with her bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2014 and her credential & master’s degree in the spring of 2016. She started teaching in the fall of 2016 as an intervention specialist. In the fall of 2017, Heather moved to a traditional classroom setting, teaching 4th grade. Her favorite part of teaching is getting to build relationships with her scholars throughout the school year and in the years to follow. Follow her on Facebook at Elementary Mayhem, on Instagram at @elementarymayhem, and on Twitter at @ElemenMayhem.
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.
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