Diary of a First-Year Teacher: I Never Thought I’d Feel So Isolated

This 22-year-old rookie teacher shares what it’s like to feel alone while trying to make a difference.

This new teacher is struggling with trying to remember why she began teaching in the first place. (Photo: Plush Studios/Bill Reitzel)

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.


In college I was in a community of people all geared toward graduating and making a difference. We had a spectrum of passions, intent on reaching different populations and meeting a variety of needs across the globe. But within our camaraderie, we felt encouraged that somehow together we might make the world a better place.

As we threw our caps up in the air last April, we represented a sliver of our generation headed off to Korea, Guatemala, the Deep South, and the inner cities of America. We set out to fight homeless, educational inequity, poverty, human trafficking, and countless other social issues.

I had faith in taking the leap and following my passions because somehow the shared dream of a better world made my move south easier to face. I was part of a group of young people who all wanted the same thing.

After our caps hit the ground, however, the pursuit of change was not exactly what I expected. Saying you are going to teach in an impoverished area is a lot easier when you are still inside the walls of your college classroom.

It’s very different to discuss your idealistic vision for the world in the company of like minds than it is to act it out in the field. It’s especially difficult when your field is far removed from your comfort zone.

I never thought my life in the Delta would be easy, but I didn’t realize the geographic isolation would result in an isolation of ideology and passion. It is easy to forget down here that I’m still a part of that group of idealist college seniors. In the midst of my daily challenges, I forget about the work that is being done by like-minded people across our country and world.

What I do each day in my little classroom in the heart of the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta feels so separate, so minor, in comparison to the rest of the world.

I have to believe that my work, although physically far away from my band of idealistic friends, is tied to their work and the work of all the passionate people who are pursuing justice beyond their comfort zone.

It’s tied to my old classmates teaching across the country, also seeking to give the children of our nation the best education they can receive. It’s tied to the work of my friends building a school for orphans in other countries. It is even tied to my friends in graduate school, educating themselves for jobs that will improve child welfare. It is tied to all the people who seek to make the world better.

Even though our work may sometimes feel insignificant on its own, we have to believe that when it’s all put together, it is someday going to make a difference.

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