Friday, June 6, 2014

First Year: Down!

Today is Eric's last day of school (with students) for this year. He still has to go in on Monday and Tuesday next week to wrap things up, but today is the last day for the kids and thus, his last day of actually teaching. So, I think we can say that his first year of teaching is officially in the books.

Mr. W. in action last summer

I hope that at some point he'll put some of this thoughts and impressions together into a post of his own that I can share with you, because I would say his first year of teaching has certainly been eye-opening. Although he expected his students to be "behind," he had no idea how dramatic the deficit might be. He has encountered a myriad eye-opening experiences and interactions with his students, and has made great strides towards figuring what might and might not work when trying to teach the kids in his classroom. It is very safe to say his first year has been quite a learning experience, and I hope he'll share that with you firsthand soon.

But in the meantime, I just want to say how proud I am of him. I know this year was no cakewalk, and I'm not sure either of us was prepared for how challenging it would really be. I know that Eric has struggled with feeling that he didn't do the job he hoped, judging by test scores and many student attitudes. But in reality, I think he did an extraordinary job this year. He was thrust into a difficult teaching assignment with only six weeks of teacher training under his belt. He had to navigate both subject matter and classroom management for the first time. He had no idea what would work and what wouldn't. He had two subjects to prepare for and struggled to motivate kids whose attitude about school and grades is in stark contrast with his own. He also coached football his first semester - essentially another full-time job in itself - and dealt with a newly pregnant wife and a new home and new city. How he didn't run screaming for the hills with all that, I may never know.

But scream and run he did not. In fact, he often commented on how much better he felt about going to work each day than he ever did in law. He certainly had a lot on his plate but there was never the overwhelming stress and/or dread over facing each new day. He built relationships with many of his students, and now even has cards and letters of appreciation to show for it. Some of his well-used "speeches" became famous and the kids loved to impersonate him. He was known for not letting his kids swear in his classroom and by the end of the year they were actively working to improve their in-class language, calling each other out on it and even extending the "no swear zone" to the hallway within Eric's earshot. He did his best with those kids, in a very challenging circumstance, and I think he made a lot more progress than he can probably even recognize.

I can't say enough how proud I am of Eric for doing this. I know that the one place he would prefer to spend all of his time (aside from the golf course) is at home with his family. However, working is a necessary evil that makes that impossible. Yet years ago he had the character and the integrity to say, "If I have to be away from my family for a job, I want to spend that time doing something worthwhile." And then he evaluated his career, didn't like what he saw, and changed it - venturing into the unknown, far from his comfort zone, in the pursuit of the greater good. He is an admirable man and I think those kids are lucky to have him. I know I am, and my kids are. There's no question about that.

There is one more year of teaching ahead of Eric on his Teach For America contract. He will be teaching math again next year (most likely Algebra 2) and he is already brainstorming new methods of teaching content, managing his classroom, instituting a cohesive vision and ultimately having the maximum positive impact possible for next year's students. It is inspiring and wonderful to see his enthusiasm still going so strong after the first year, as he already looks towards the next.

Eric, you should be so proud of yourself. I hope you know what a great job you have done this year and next year promises to be even better. You're an inspiration to me and an incredible example for Ellie and Plus One, as well as the kids that you teach. We're so proud of you.


Dad/Papa said...

Well done Eric on a ourageous and thoughtful decision. Proud of you and so glad you are the husband of my daughter, father of my grandchild(ren).

Nichole @ said...

I absolutely love this post! Great job, Eric! I hope he decides to share his thoughts this summer :)