This is the first post in a series of articles about the “Celebrations and Trials of a First-year Teacher.”

Where to begin?  I got my very own classroom in the middle of the school year right after Halloween.  I needed my class and I would like to say my class needed me.  They began their school year with a substitute with the impression their teacher would return sometime after the school year began.  When I arrived, they were three months in to second grade with a substitute, who was doing her best with the skills she had and support from the other teachers. My class had 18 students, the vast majority of them boys.  And might I say each of the boys had a strong personality, some exhibiting a range of emotions that they were struggling to handle well, especially with one another.

We spent the majority of our first weeks getting to know each other and building a cooperative, civil community. Focusing on cooperation early proved useful as we could spend later time learning rather than taking the numerous timeouts that are necessary to see why someone was yelling, hiding under their desk, refusing to do their work, etc.

Every day we made progress, but the progress was slow. It is important to not get weary!

We continued to get to know each other.  And just as it naturally happens when you get to know someone, I learned more about what made my students excited, what traits of their peers pushed their buttons, and what strifes my students were enduring outside the classroom.

I knew my primary job was to teach my students academics, but it became immediately clear that there are many traits not listed in a “teacher’s job description” that are required to properly do the job.  I realized right away that my kids couldn’t focus on learning when they were too angry, too tired, too worried, too hungry, or too sad. I couldn’t ignore all these basic needs as their teacher.  So we learned a lot about caring for ourselves and for one another. After my students became comfortable expressing their feelings, they were finally able to focus on learning.