What have you learned in 2013?

What have you learned this year? Not “have you learned anything this year?”. What. What have you learned? This question has been plaguing me for days, and I have a good idea of who is asking and waiting for an answer. Although there are a few weeks left in 2013, there’s no better time than now to begin reflecting on the year. 2013 ended up being a bigger year than I could have ever expected it to be.

From January until today, I’ve experienced more change than ever before. I finally learned how to carry myself as a teacher and expressed such with some of the most diverse, troubled, and truly wonderful students for four great months. I had the best 23rd birthday any girl could ask for surrounded by love and best friends. I sat on the floor for the concert of my dreams with my favorite artists, my mom, and my brother. I was able to keep my dream job for a second year amidst being a paraprofessional and part-time student. I graduated from college. I got a teaching job at the school I love most, working with some of the craziest, kindest, and most unique individuals I’ve ever met, and last, but certainly not least, I moved out of my parent’s house and have officially begun my life as an adult. Needles to say, this has been a big year.

So, what has been learned as a result of this year?

Never lose sight of your goals.
There were so many days during student teaching – my first real experience in the classroom – when I felt so defeated. I cried for my students and because of my students, having learned of the struggles they faced, experienced their reactions to such, and spent four months trying to understand them. There were days when I contemplated if this was the right choice for me, and here I am, over six months later, working in the same building and encountering those same students every day. It’s a blessing, really.

Pay homage to the road that brought you to where you are.
I’ll admit: I’m as stubborn as they come, and I hate to admit that I’m wrong. Although I love to believe that I made my life happen all on my own, I didn’t. There is no way I’d be sitting here expressing this to you today without the love and support of my family, the inspiration of my teachers, the encouragement of my friends, the fuel to my fire from the antagonists, and shear luck. Thank those who helped you. At the end of TNLB, our class was asked to create a self assessment of our choosing, and this is what I had incorporated into mine:

As Kenny Chesney has told you before, “you didn’t get here alone.” Never forget the beautiful souls who spent countless hours writing lesson plans with you. Facebook may be insignificant now, but they are some of the most special people you’ve come across in your life. If faced with opposition, you have fifteen people to cry to, to laugh with, and to look toward for inspiration. That’s a rare and special thing.

It’s pretty amazing that those fifteen are all over the country following their passions. Whether they are students, teachers, or bringing the magic at Walt Disney world, we’ve come a long way, and we were able to do so together.

Don’t expect perfection.
That sounds a lot more pessimistic than intended. Nothing is ever going to be absolutely perfect, and it’s unrealistic to believe that it is. People will disappoint you; things will go wrong. The real art of living is rolling with the punches and finding the sunshine in every single day, even the ones that feel like they will never end. Coming from a new teacher, this role is nothing like what I had expected. That’s not saying that I don’t love what I do, because I do, but I’ve left work unhappy because the day to day routine didn’t fit the mold that I had created in my head for how it should be. Forget expectations. Enjoy each day for what it is. Enjoy the people you’re around for who they are. Don’t expect; just enjoy.

Value relationships.
I joke with my colleagues all the time that we work in a nuthouse, but honestly, we all love it. Work wouldn’t be the same without everyone that fills our days. The challenges of this year taught me a lot about who I want in my life, who I’m lucky to have, and who I want to become based on the examples of those in my life. With the transitions I’ve faced and the daily struggles that encompass my days, I’m even more thankful than ever for those that embrace my crazy and love me for what I have to give. Over a year ago, a compassionate and gifted speaker handed me a card that had a life lesson I needed to learn:

“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway,” Henry Boye.

Thank you to those who bear with me as I continue to work to embody this lesson and show love by doing the same. From helping me move out of my family home to calling me and making sure I’m awake for work in the morning, I can’t put into words how lucky of a girl I am. The haze of the daily shits and struggles tends to mask this, but I couldn’t get through each day without the people who embrace my many, many flaws and choose to put up with me and be a part of my life.

Challenge yourself.
Some of my shining moments this year (at least in my eyes) were moments in which I thought I was going to break and found a way to shine. My glow stick moments. Giving a speech to over 500 people about the college that I love. Teaching alone for the first time. Living alone. Participating in a tradition at the school as a first year teacher. Running a first annual district-wide event. If you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never change. I’ve found that by breaking the glass box and daring to do push myself farther than I had ever gone, I’d become a stronger teacher and individual with a force to be reckoned with and a voice to be heard.

Teachers, we get more evaluations than we could ever want. Take time out of your day or week to evaluate how you did and what you would change. Even if those of you reading this aren’t teachers, there are always things that we can change to make ourselves happier, more productive, and more successful. For me, I always think of my behavior plan (that stupid classroom management schpeal that I LOVE talking about) or my seating arrangements or, dear lord, my transitions to keep students occupied. We are our own worst critics, but I think that there are times in which we need to be. We need to be raw with ourselves to help foster the most growth. If we know that we’re atrocious at something and have the opportunity to learn, we need to push ourselves to improve. We’ll never be our best selves if we can’t acknowledge if we’re not quite there yet.

Enjoy the ride.
Seriously. We have one life; we need to enjoy it. As I told a colleague, I may experience 30 of 31 bad days in the month, but there will always be that one day when I felt effective, when I felt accomplished, or when I felt helpful. There is always that one day. Maybe there’s only one day a week or a month or a quarter, but there is always one. Enjoy it. Find a reason to smile everyday. Frowning does nothing for you (if anything, it makes you look all sorts of frumpy). You can’t change what has happened. I can’t change what has happened. I can only learn to accept things, move forward, and find sunshine in the next day. The lesson of the year: find a reason to smile everyday, and love the life that you’re living.

Happy reading, friends. If I don’t have a moment to write again before the holidays, I wish you and yours the most loving holiday season around. Enjoy!
Ms. S.


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