Diary of a First-Year Teacher: A Case of the Mid-Winter Blues

Post-holiday chaos and apathy are testing this 22-year-old rookie teacher.

Talking while the teacher was talking happened way too often this past month. (Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill)

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.


January was not exactly the easiest month of the school year.

Just the other day I looked out at my class and I had two devoted students’ attention and the rest of the room was doodling, poking their neighbor, or actively moving their desk to a different location.

I tried my series of attention getters: clapping patterns, raising a high five, and the countdown. None of these tactics worked, and I couldn’t take another lesson interrupted by misbehavior.

What had happened to the calm and productive classroom we had in December?

I not only see a change in their behavior, I also see it in their test scores. Our class scores are faltering since being back from break. The kids can feel the chaos as well. They get riled up from shouting, so even the most emotionally stable children are more likely to break into tears in the afternoon hours.

It is discouraging to say the least. I often feel that any progress I make can be broken in an instant. I had visions of what my classroom would be like: calm, creative and rigorous. I had no perception of how hard it would be to create that.

I’ve seen better days with my children, so I know that things will get better. But I’m not going to lie; this is a rough patch.

Teachers are human, and we have difficult days too. Despite this, I know that being the best version of myself is what my students deserve. And that requires a struggle, not just with students and their environment, but also a struggle within myself.

So although my job may cause me to cry in the school bathroom on occasion, it’s a valiant fight that needs to be fought.

I’ve heard this work referred to as being in the trenches, and honestly, no other teaching comparison fits as well. We are very much on the front lines in the battle for our country’s future. We’re fighting for these kids—and it certainly is a battle.

Not only do we fight misbehavior and short attention spans, but we’re fighting the impact poverty has on student achievement. We’re fighting our culture’s low expectations for students like the ones in my classroom. We are fighting each day so that every child can achieve his/her dreams, regardless of what home life is like.

So although my job may cause me to cry in the school bathroom on occasion, it’s a valiant fight that needs to be fought. And whether or not I’m ready every day to fight this battle, I know that I need to be because my students deserve the best education possible.

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