The Fresh Start Journal

Whether you are a first-year teacher or one who has been in the profession a while, a new school year is always a promise of a new beginning. You are given a chance to reinvent yourself and the things you do for your students. You are given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many.

As a veteran now embarking on year thirty-six, I have learned a thing or two about being successful and being happy in the profession. I have certainly realized that there will be many days that are difficult – so overbearing that you just don’t know how you can ever return the next morning. But I have also learned that these moments are there to teach us about ourselves, our craft, and our students.

Griping in the teachers’ lounge can be cathartic, but carrying the anger, despair and frustration beyond its doors will surely be detrimental to your well-being and that of your students as well.

A few years ago, I decided that I was going to start a “Fresh Start Journal.” I vowed that, no matter how difficult my day happened to be, I would write about something from each day that made me smile or laugh or stop and ponder about the life of one of my kids. Some days it was very difficult – but not impossible – to find that ray of sunshine. Other days, I had several stories to record. The point is – for the past five years – I’ve never gone a day without finding a moment that made me grateful for being a teacher.

After a while, I found myself actively looking for those moments – listening for the funny things kids said, watching for the kind or goofy things kids did. I didn’t have to think so hard at night when I would turn to my journal because I was purposefully watching for “moments” during my actual time interacting with the kids. The net result was that I was now looking for the good in my students more than for their faults.

On especially trying days, re-reading entries in my journal can return a smile to my face, hope to my heart, and a resolve to go back to school and try again with a fresh start. Reviewing what I have written can help me better appreciate the souls of the children in my charge and give them a fresh start as well. Looking back through the pages, I can be reminded of the good things that happened during the year and realize just how much my students have grown and matured during their time with me.

My journal from last school year contains many anecdotes about a boy named Ivan. The kid had a lot of behavior issues – disobeying rules and disrespecting teachers. His redeeming grace was that he could make me laugh. By the end of the year, he had mellowed a bit. Then, on the last day of school, he embraced me in a hug and sobbed. This is what I wrote in my journal that evening:

This boy is a great reminder to me that we should never give up on a kid – especially our adolescents – and that relationships take a lot of work and a lot of time. Ivan was an extremely squirmy kid at the start of the year. I thought he would never calm down.

“For the past two days, he has been all over the place, but also has spent a lot of time sitting next to me and talking. At one point today, he draped his arm over my shoulder and sat like that as he told me about his summer plans.

“Teaching is an exhausting but extremely rewarding profession. Sometimes you get to see the changes you worked for all year, sometimes you don’t.

“I’m grateful I did not give up on Ivan.”

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2018.

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