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I Wish That I Knew What I Know Now

As I sat outside the principal’s office awaiting my interview this afternoon, I was struck by a feeling of absurdity. A little less than two years ago, I was in this exact same position. I had just finished my NYC Teaching Fellows pre-service training and was looking for a teaching job. I felt confident that I would get a job though. And I felt reasonably confident that I was a great candidate for any school. Of course the reality was, that I had no idea what I was doing.

Don’t get me wrong, pre-service training for Fellows is rigorous and comprehensive. In six short, stressful weeks, our training covered every aspect of teaching that a school administrator could question you about. From classroom management to guided reading, I “knew” what it meant to be a teacher. The only thing I didn’t actually know, apart from some summer school teaching experience, was what it was actually like to be a teacher. And ironically in spite of this, I felt no anxiety about being hired.

Now, two years later, I have survived my trial by fire.* When I talk about my literacy block, I have 360+ literacy blocks to draw from in my mind. When I talk about reaching struggling students, I have a dozen or more students that come to mind. And yet, all this experience doesn’t make me feel any more secure in my interviews. In a way, the practical experience of teaching has complicated my understanding of how a classroom should work. I can only hope that complexity is a positive sign of experience, and will show that I can be asset wherever I teach. Either way, going into interviews with a bit of humility is probably for the best in the end.

*Everyone claims that their first-year classroom is filled with “the worst kids in the school.” Funny coincidence, huh? I know my class was no exception. I’ve also realized since that the reason these kids always end up in first-year teachers’ classrooms is that first-year teachers have virtually no management skills.

Ruben Brosbe just finished his second year teaching in the Bronx. He is writing about his experiences looking for a new position after being excessed this spring. He also blogs at Is Our Children Learning?

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.