Each week, an anonymous first-grade teacher will share her confessions, musings, struggles, and successes during the first year of her teaching career in rural Mississippi.
The pressure was on. This year, three other first-year teachers and I were in charge of our school’s annual Christmas program.
It’s a funny predicament to suddenly be evaluated on something that goes beyond how well you teach your core subjects. You spend the majority of your time trying to figure out if you’re being serious enough, if you’re utilizing every single moment for instruction, and wondering if you’re wasting any time. Admittedly you teach your lessons with a watchful eye on the door, expecting an administrator or district leader to pop in at any moment; fearful that if they were to come in during a lull or a break, you would hear about it after school.
However with the big holiday program coming up, that motivation changes. Yes, testing last week took priority, but I was also concerned with pleasing my administration with the pizzazz of our holiday program.
Alas, for the past three weeks the teachers have been preparing our wiggly five- and six-year-olds for what’s expected to be a spectacular Christmas program while also getting them ready for their highly formal first semester exams.
Although an extreme, this dichotomy is something an elementary teacher faces every day: balancing the seriousness of teaching your students how to read and perform fundamental math skills with the joy and fun necessary to instilling a love of learning.
An elementary teacher is not simply responsible for a child’s formal education. They are also responsible for creating the school experiences that shape a student’s character. As a stressed out first-year teacher, it’s easy to discredit holiday programs and field trips as a waste of time. However these experiences are central to the character development that happens in the early elementary years.
In our simple Christmas play, I watched as some of my little stars began to shine. It would be a strong sentiment to say they blossomed during the two weeks, so let’s say that I saw my babies begin to bud.
The mere fact that they were a part of creating something celebrated by the whole school is monumental for a first grader. I saw students like Jason and Kymya come alive on stage. They hammed it up for the audience and embraced who they are. It was a delight.
It’s safe to say the Christmas program was a wonderful use of time. I can’t say it brought up their test scores, but I can proudly say it created something they can be proud of. It allowed them to be shining stars for an hour and a half. It was an experience everyone can use every now and then—especially a child on the brink of discovering who they are.
These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.