Dear Ms. Phillips,
Take a deep breath. You’re definitely freaking out, and you probably have every reason to; this is your first day as a real-life teacher. One hundred things have probably gone wrong and you think you’re not ready and you’re so scared and you’re maybe even thinking you made the wrong decision, that you’re not cut out for this and you shouldn’t be here —
But you’re right where you belong. This is where you’ve dreamed of being your whole life, where you know you can make the most difference and be the absolute best person you can be. This is where you pictured yourself, so take a look around — this is your biggest dream coming true.
Think back to being me. Sitting in CSU’s library, studying with your best friend, dreaming of what it will be like when you have your first classroom. Hell, I’m freaking out about it right now, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. Knowing us, I think it would help you to remember your own advice: if it scares you, it’s probably something you should try. Just because you’re scared doesn’t mean you can’t do this. Even if you have the worst first day of your life, it doesn’t mean you can’t do this. You are qualified, confident, and (in the words of your idol, the Queen herself) you’re Schoolin’ Life. You’ve got this. This is what you were born to do.
And you. can. do. this.
You’ve spent the better part of your life training for this, the last four years tirelessly working to know everything you can know and being as prepared as possible to make sure you are your students greatest support and toughest critic and biggest fan.
So stop for a minute, between all the preparations and the fear and the nerves and remember: why did you want to do this in the first place?
First: you love literature. You love reading and writing and want other people to love it, too, so you chose to teach it. Think of who you were in high school, and all that it took to get you to love English the way you do — don’t give up on them. Give them choices and let them discover the love for themselves, and use your passion and love of the subject to teach it well.
Second: you want to make a difference. The biggest way to make the best impact is to teach; teach them empathy and what it’s like to take care of one and other; teach them the implications of their politics, of their beliefs and their words; teach them to think first with their hearts, and speak and act, always, from a place of kindness. Teach them what a wonderful thing it can be to help another person, and how even more wonderful it is to love and help themselves; teach them that they have the power to totally change their lives, and the lives of others. Remember that you started doing this because you wanted your students to know how capable they are, and how powerful kindness can be. This is a big task; you’be be crazy not to be scared.
Third: you love people. You love being around people and talking to people and counting on people — and having people count on you. Accountability can be a scary thing (and I hope you’ve been holding yourself accountable more as you’ve gotten older — you’re kind of crap at it right now), but you need it, and it helps you thrive. This is a job that requires you to talk all the time, to problem solve and laugh and have fun and just be with people. You’re going to do so well here.
Remember: they wouldn’t have hired you if they didn’t believe you were capable — but you have to believe it, too.
Look forward to the little things:
- Taking papers to coffee shops to grade (latte in hand)
- Having students visit years later and thank you
- Your first difficult student that you’ll get to love learning or reading and writing or even just tolerate all of it because they like you
- Teacher conferences/trainings/etc. with all your teacher friends
- Decorating your classroom (which I’m sure you did an excellent job at)
- Coming home on the hard days and knowing that you have a chance to do it all over again tomorrow
So, like I said, take a deep breath.
Remember why you’re here.
And above all, have fun today; you’re gonna remember it for the rest of your life.
Love you always!