“Kid, you just have to begin.”
These were the profound words spoken by my high school agriculture teacher this past summer when I asked him how I was ever going to survive my first year of teaching.
Holy toledo, I didn’t even know where to start.
It was June. We were standing in the middle of the barren classroom I had just been given the keys to about a week before when I signed on the dotted line and accepted my first teaching contract at Niangua R-V High School. I had invited Mr. Blair to come in and help me get settled in my new classroom and go over some important ag teacher details that I had no idea how to handle. How to fill out state reports and enhancement grants. How to register kids for summer fairs, camps, and conferences. How to set the irrigation and thermostat in my greenhouse. How to use the metal band saw in my shop. How to order new supplies I would need for the upcoming year. I mean, I didn’t even know what a freaking purchase order form was, for goodness sake!
It was all so overwhelming.
I remember standing there paralyzed with fear, looking at the floor that had not yet been resurfaced, the white walls that had not yet been painted, the dust bunnies piled up in the corner, the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and all those empty desks and chairs that would soon be not-so-empty.
I didn’t have a clue what disaster to tackle first. All I knew is I only had two months to get that place in tip-top shape before August 18 hit and my first round of students came rolling through the door.
Ready or not, it was coming. Fast.
Kind of like the past four years of college and the four years of high school before that. How did 8 years of my life just fly by and rip the rug right out from under me?
As much as I wanted to turn around right then and there, run (not walk) out of that classroom, jump in my car, speed all the way home an hour away, bury myself under my covers, eat a ton of chocolate, drink a lot of wine, and never look back, I knew he was right.
I just had to begin.
You know, I have been dealing with versions of self-doubt and fear all my life. Taking my first steps. Riding my bike without training wheels. Jumping off that diving board without my floaties. Texting that boy back who really liked me (and eventually married me). Taking the ACT that would depict whether or not I would get accepted into the university I always wanted to go to. Getting a bob after growing my hair out for years (oh yes, this was a dramatic event for sure). Finally starting that blog I always wanted to but never had the time or confidence to do – until now! I had survived all these events I thought were tragedies at the time I was experiencing them.
Fear has always been a familiar concept to me. But for some reason when it came to the career I had invested so much time, money, and tears to become qualified for it was even more terrifying than anything else I had ever known.
What if I hated it? What if my students hated me? What if I failed? And then they failed, too?
But – with the always honest and encouraging advice from one of the teachers that made the biggest impact in my life and reminded me exactly why I was standing in my own barren, dirty classroom that day – I breathed….I prayed….then I began.
I started cleaning. Organizing. Dusting. Sweeping. Peeling old sticky tack off the walls. Decorating bulletin boards. Finding a fun bright color to paint for an accent wall. Making a chalkboard calendar for FFA events. Hanging bright yellow curtains and painting bookshelves blue. Adding my own personal touches on the walls like pictures, quotes, plaques, and my old FFA jacket. Before I knew it I had totally customized a space that once felt empty and lonesome and screamed “YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT!” It truly was my home away from home – and not to mention, up to par with all the latest Pinterest trends! I was finally starting to feel comfortable and like I really could do this.
Then August 18 came.
When that first bell rang and my first class walked in the door with beady eyes, whispering “dude, who’s the new teacher?”, I froze. Which is ridiculous considering I had rehearsed this day – this moment – for weeks. No, literally, I had it almost completely scripted out word for word on sticky notes and steno pad paper because I’m that dorky.
But, I breathed…I prayed….then I began one of the most beautiful and frustrating journeys I have ever experienced to date.
Now here I am- January 12 2017 – over halfway done with Year One. Honestly I am not sure whether to high-five myself for surviving this long, laugh at all the times I thought I’d never make it this far, or kick my feet up and have a drink.
Perhaps I’ll do all three.
Don’t get me wrong – I still have many doubts and insecurities and there are days where I honestly think I could do any job other than this and be stressed less, home earlier, less reliant on messy buns, and a few pounds lighter from not eating so much fast food while I’m on the go. (Thank God for late night drive-thru Taco Bell, that’s all I’m sayin!) But when I think of how hard I have worked to get where I am now, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
And no, I haven’t officially and completely survived Year One yet, but I do know this. I will tackle any upcoming obstacles and disasters – whether it be dust bunnies, cobwebs, endless paperwork, challenging students, late nights followed by early mornings, or stressful deadlines – the way I have been coached to do by one of my greatest mentors.
I will just breathe…pray…and begin.
Oh, and drink A LOT of coffee.