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First Year Teacher Self-Study Course

First Year Teacher is a self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers, developed by Reading Rockets. The program provides teachers with an in-depth knowledge of reading so they are prepared to guide their students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.

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Week 15

First Year Teacher Syndrome

"First Year Teacher Syndrome," my colleagues call it. The horrible condition of being a first year teacher as I build up my immune system. While I build it up, however, I am hit with every cold, cough and germ that enters my classroom. "You will never be as sick as you are this year," I am told as I wonder if I am going to get through all of the antibiotics in the pharmaceutical world before the year is over. At the rate I am going at, I think I might!

Just two weeks ago, I was writing about how I reluctantly had to take my first sick days. This week, however, I knew those sick days were given to us for a reason. With a never-ending sinus infection and a newly developed ear infection, I woke up Wednesday morning, sick as a dog. Within seconds of being awake, I knew I could not go in. As I called for a sub, I knew I had to write up explanations to my plans for the sub. When I write my plans, I write them for myself, which may be difficult for other people to follow. As I laid on the couch, trying to write as coherently as I could, I felt bad for not being able to go in, but worse for myself, for feeling so unbelievably sick.

Thursday was another sick day. I was not feeling better, and I was suffering from bad side effects from my medications. Wednesday morning, when I did not go in, I had my mom drop off my plans. Since we live only seven minutes from school, it was not a far trip. I did, however, feel somewhat lame that I had a parent drop off my work, as if I was a student! Thursday, however, I did things differently. My mentor is a wonderful colleague, and she helps me in any way that I need. On Thursday morning I e-mailed her my plans, and she printed them up and gave them to the sub for me. Knowing that I have a support group like I do made me feel better about not being there in school. Of course again I missed another fun project: the making of piñatas. But as I realized the last time that I was sick, there are times when a teacher cannot make it into school, and this week was another one of those times.

Even though I woke up Friday not feeling too great, I dragged myself into school. I did not want to miss any more days, I wanted to feel better and get things back to normal. But as my students arrived and I started my day, I felt the little energy that I had being sucked out of me. The normal activities of the day were too much for me. I still was not feeling well enough to take them on. Realizing that if I stayed in school, I might be much worse than before, I decided to get a half-day sub. This made me feel horrible. I came in, I tried to get through the six hours, but I could not do it. I felt so guilty for leaving my students, again, and I felt as if it looked bad that I was not going to be in school, yet again. But when I got home and laid down, I knew I had made the right decision.

I knew being a first year teacher would be a challenge in many ways. There is the administration, parents and colleague that you have to prove yourself to. You suddenly become responsible for eighteen young children. And most importantly, you learn about yourself as you enter this demanding yet rewarding profession. Never did I think that my biggest challenge so far would be staying healthy enough to make it into school. As a first year teacher, you will get sick. If you are working in the lower grades, you will get sick quite often. It is, unfortunately, one of the horrible downfalls of teaching. Not only do we have to build up and improve our reputations, teaching styles and classroom management techniques, we also have to improve our immune systems. And until I actually do that, which will probably be in June, I am going to be grateful that I have sick days and great health insurance. Without those two things, I do not know how I would survive this “First Year Teacher Syndrome.”

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"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain