August 3, 2014
Dear New Teacher,
The first, and probably the most important thing, is that this is a letter of support. Teachers are teachers no matter how they made it into the classroom, traditional, nontraditional, I respect both. I also respect your passion. I know you have a passion because who other than a passionate person would embark on this journey.
Like you, I came to be a teacher in a nontraditional, unconventional way (I was a 33 year old, mother of five when I went to school to earn my degree). Also like you, I am passionate. However, we differ in that I went through a traditional, secondary education program and you are a Teach For America recruit. Both can be valid.
In the ensuing months, you will no doubt read and hear more rhetoric regarding education in America than perhaps you have already. I would encourage you to ignore the negativity on both sides of the aisle: pro-TFA, anti_TFA, doesn’t matter. I say this because you have a job to do and your kids need you, all of you. In fact, they need more of you than you have to give, but please, don’t give them all of you; hold back a little for yourself, you are going to need it.
You are going to need a place within you that is sacrosanct, a part of you in which only you have access. This is the place to which you will retreat, a place where homework and standards and Common Core are four letter words. A place where making a pauper’s wage for what we do, is never an issue. A place to go where bitter, veteran teachers cannot hurt your feelings, nor your new TFA supervisors encourage you to believe that you will be an effective teacher, you won’t be, at least not initially. You need that place.
You need that place because you will encounter this, and so much more, and you need to sort it all out, calmly and rationally, relaxing not stressing. Then get ready…
Your kids are going to tell you things (some in person, some through their writing) that you are not going to believe; believe them. Your kids will test you and test you and test you some more. They do it to all new teachers. You will have to earn their trust. The kids you teach will have seen teachers come and go, so they do not want to invest emotionally if they even suspect you will leave them in a few years. Although, the students you had initially will be gone, the influence you had on them will not, if you are one of ‘those’ teachers, and let’s face it, we all want to be one of ‘those’ teachers”.
Some days your kids will be your saving grace,and some days they will be the bane of your existence, accept both with equal fervor, kids only expend energy on teachers they feel strongly about. You want them to feel strongly since indifference and apathy kills creativity. Learn how to turn the negative into a positive and you will have a loyal fan for years to come.
Finally, I was going to end my letter of support welcoming you to the profession and wishing you best of luck in the coming school year; I’ve had second thoughts. Although I do welcome you and I do wish you the best of luck, take careful note: kids know. Kids know whether or not they can break you, whether or not you are a teacher for life, whether or not you really care and whether or not they can trust you. Kids know. So, if your aim is to put in your two years and move on we, the kids and I, would rather you just keep moving, we don’t need you. If, however, you have an open mind with regard to making teaching your vocation we, the kids and I, welcome you with open arms, we need you.
Good, bad, or indifferent, all teachers leave their mark. You choose.
Ms. Victoria Kunzmann
7th Grade Language Arts