be.Living

Teacher: a chance to be reborn every year

As children, who doesn’t remember the whirlwind of emotions we felt on returning to school at the beginning of each school year? A mixture of longing, nervousness, excitement; the eagerness to know who would be our teacher, who would be in our class, and how much we might explore, experience and learn! Somehow, we sensed that everything was wide open—that this was a great opportunity to be reborn. But what is that time of the year like for teachers? How do they feel, and how do they prepare for this new journey, with the challenges and travel companions that go along with it?

Each partnership between a learner and an educator can have a profoundly powerful and transformative effect. In this relationship, one embarks on a journey that another lays out, in a magical meeting of souls and minds, producing a lifelong friendship and a lasting impact on the values and choices of the other. Opening paths for others and allowing them to grow and develop through the experience: this is the sweet destiny of Anne and Dedé, elementary school teachers. Here they share with us the process of preparing their souls and minds to embrace, in the best possible way, the variety of new arrivals, with whom they will build a new story.


Anne, a first grade teacher

 

Anne, what are the worries, motivations and joys that a teacher who is going to start a new journey with a student experiences?

Anne: I believe that both the teacher and the children start the school year with a “goodbye”. We need to come to terms with the loss of those who have been part of our lives for a whole year and open ourselves up to new ways of seeing and experiencing the world. I go through this in a very intense way. I think all students and educators who have bonds, mutual respect, and empathy as the foundation of a good learning environment have to say their “goodbyes” and experience a sense of vulnerability before the new. Then comes a pleasant feeling of anticipation: who are these children? What will they bring to our group? The concern that I always have—and I don’t mean “concern” in the negative sense—is whether or not I’ll have the capacity to provide the tools that the new arrivals need to be able to deal with the struggles they bring. The great motivation is not to fail them as a human being, not to undermine their best, and to sense when they need a hug and an encouraging word or a serious conversation about something that needs correcting. And always, always, praise their achievements. I try very hard to put myself in the shoes of my five- or six-year-old self, transforming or improving the way the adults around me worked on my joys, needs, fears, desires, and difficulties. I think that in being an educator, you also revisit your own childhood. The children leave such a profound impression on me, and I suppose I leave an impression on them; my concern is always about the quality of that impression.

How do you prepare to embark on this new journey?

Anne: I prepare for a new school year with new children by trying to see them as they are, without burdening them with expectations based on relationships and exchanges of previous classes. Yes, I carry with me everything that went right and wrong, but always keeping in mind that new relationships bring new challenges, a variety of achievements, and new ways of seeing and experiencing things.

 


Dedé, a first grade teacher

 

And you Dedé, how do you view the new school year in a teacher’s life?

Dedé: I see the beginning of the year as a fresh start, as a great opportunity to look back on the path we took the previous year and rethink the route: reflecting on things that could be done better, things that I may have focused on too much which I didn’t need to, and of course, give thought to the new group. Even though we are still responsible for the same year (in my case, first grade), I’m receiving a different group of children, with very different needs compared to those of last year. And so the first days of contact with these children are to get a sense of the needs of this group. I can tell you right now that I already see differences between last year’s group and this year’s, and I already see the need to make changes in my relationship with these children. Of course, Dedé is the same person, but Dedé is constantly changing to meet the needs of children with varied personalities, who have their own expectations as well.

How does a teacher prepare for this new journey?

Dedé: Here at be.Living, we have a very dependable evaluation process. I start the year by talking to Gabi, our coordinator, and she evaluates my work in 2019 and then brings her expectations to the table for this year. This chat with Gabriela helps me to change and to think about what my work will be and how I can measure up to it. It empowers me. You know exactly how the school evaluates your work and what can be done for the new journey. We also fill out an evaluation form, and have a face-to-face discussion about it. She told me that her assessment of my work was not so different from my own. This helps me to realize that I’m not on the wrong track, that I can make a realistic assessment of my own work, and that I’m not without hope in this regard. It helps me to keep improving in my profession. I think that, while the school year and class may change, us teachers are in a constant state of development.

In your opinion, what are the main motivations for starting a new school year?

Dedé:In my opinion, the great motivation for the teacher is the group of children he or she receives. As I said before, this group is very different from the previous group, so it makes me change my focus of study and change the people who I use as models for my work. I find it difficult for the teacher not to have his or her group as the main motivation. It is the children who motivate us to work and to seek and carry out certain studies. They are always the ones who give me this motivation to improve my work.

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