Blogs / Life, teacher life

First Year of Teaching: The Day It All Changed

We had mentioned it in passing.

We had discussed it in hypotheticals.

We had never imagined it would turn out the way it did.

March 13th.

In the days and weeks leading up to March 13th, teachers and students alike were talking about COVID. Was it as bad as people said? Would it come to California? Would it come to our school? Would we have to shut down? We were so sure for so long that it would never come to that, but that whole week, it seemed like there was something in the atmosphere building to this day. The whole week it rained, and any teachers out there known that rainy days make for interesting school days. When there are rainy days back-to-back, tensions rise, we begin to feel couped up (teachers and students). It was the perfect preface for what was to come.

That Friday my phone continued to light up, but as I was teaching, I could not check it. At passing period, I would briefly look at my notifications: Disney announces closure, school district announces closure . . . Pandemic sweeps through the United States . . . COVID infection rising . . .

Between the rain, the notifications, the confusion amongst our own staff, (and oh ya, I was releasing the production cast list that day!) and the questions from the students, I just needed two minutes. Two minutes to gather myself, to prepare myself for another round of questions from my students: What is COVID? Will we die if we get it? Is this the end? Are we safe?

But it was rainy day, which meant that I did not have two minutes. My doors needed to be opened for students to come inside. I’ll never forget that I had a partner teacher who just happened to walk in randomly when I needed her most. She shut my door, told me that I was human, that I could take the two minutes I needed, that she would watch my kiddos so that I could catch my breath and regain my game face. I cannot say what her generosity and simple kindness meant to me.

I opened my door and the day resumed. Then, at 2:30pm, 15 minutes before the end of the school day, 15 minutes before I was to post my production cast, 15 minutes before the end of a very long, hard week, our principle came on the announcement system.

Due to COVID, we would not be returning to school the next week. We would break for Spring Break and we would most likely be back in a couple of weeks. Students were instructed to take all of their books home for online instruction.

During the entire announcement, students were whispering amongst themselves. When the announcement ended, some cheered and others burst into tears. Some thought it would be an extended Spring Break and others thought it signaled the end of the world.

We ended that day in prayer. We prayed for our nation, we prayed for each other and we prayed for wisdom. Looking back now, I am so grateful that that is the last memory my students will have of my “physical classroom.” Although we would continue to meet online, I am glad that we ended our classroom experience in prayer.

What was your #COVIDMOMENT ?

Let me know in the comments below!

teacher life

Trauma During the School Year

As many of you know, I am sharing bits and pieces from my first year of teaching as I reflect on the past year and hopefully learn from it. Sometimes, my first year was exactly like what I hoped: a classroom filled with learning, laughter, and even mutual respect. Sometimes, it was like I expected: highs and lows, discipline and boundaries.

Other times, I was blown off my feet and hanging on for dear life.

That is how I felt when our school experienced a tragedy that hit us out of nowhere. I’ll never forget receiving an email late at night from our superintendent letting us know that six students had been in a car accident. Two of those six boys were brothers from our school. Three out of six teenagers died; the other three were injured physically, emotionally, and mentally all because of another’s man’s senseless road rage.

The shock rippled through our school. When we held an assembly the next day to let the students know, I just remember one of my students clinging on to me, sobbing, and asking, “If he can die just like that, what is stopping me from dying too?”

Many, and I mean, MANY students grieved from the personal loss of the their close friend, a good student, a kind boy, and so many also grieved the loss of their own stability. Suddenly, the world underneath them tilted and the ground that they had thought for so long was safe and steady turned out to be filled with holes and cracks.

They were face-to-face with their own mortality.

No doubt, this was one of my darkest moments in my teaching career, but praise God, there was light. Teaching at a Christian school means that I am not only encouraged to share my faith, but it is expected. I was able to be honest with my students. I told them the truth (because lies never help), we are not guaranteed tomorrow. We are not even guaranteed our next minute, but we are guaranteed an eternity in Christ. I fully believe that those boys are in Heaven, not playing golf or Xbox or whatever odd things people sometimes say, but walking in the presence of our true God with new bodies that will never again know pain.

The young men who died in the car crash were all believers in Christ and their deaths  brought hundreds of people into a Church that they would never have otherwise stepped a foot into. Over and over again, the friends and families of these boys went up on stage and spoke about how their sons, brothers, best friends would be grateful to know that at least their deaths brought about a conversation for someone to know a little more about Christ and their eternity.

I will never forget this experience and what it taught me about being a teacher. I am not just here to educate my students. I am not just here to help them get into a good college.

I am here for when their world falls apart.

I am a physical shoulder covered in tears and snot.

I am a presence that must remind them that the world is better and brighter than our current circumstances may feel even when it is hard to believe it myself.

I am there to be honest about the ugly truths of the world while also encouraging them with the glorious Truth that is Christ.

To be a teacher means to join my students at their lowest moments and to raise them to their highest potential.


teacher life

The Start to My First Year of Teaching

Like many of first year teachers, this year has been one that I will never forget. The other day, I was speaking with my principal (literally one of the greatest bosses I have ever worked for) and she asked me if I had written down my first year experiences. She encouraged me, saying that no one had ever had a year quite like mine. Today’s blog post is part journal/part story as I share with you what it was like at the start of my teaching career . . .

Back in August, I was attending teacher orientation, learning everything from classroom management to computer systems to emergency drills. School was scheduled to start in one week, just seven days away and I was hired to be the new Yearbook Teacher, Part-Time Librarian, and Part-Time Office Assistant (mouthful, right?). All summer, I had been praying to become the new 8th Grade English teacher; however, the current 8th Grade English teacher (who had actually taught ME) planned on teaching one more year. I was content to wait and grateful for the other job in the meantime. I knew that I would continue to learn from the current 8th Grade Teacher and be even more prepared for the job when it would become available.

Then, just seven days before school was scheduled to start, before kids were scheduled to sit down in the classrooms, my Middle School Principal called me into her office and said, “So Kayla, how do you feel about teaching 8th Grade English next week?”

Without a second though, I answered, “Yes, of course, let’s do this.”

All we could do was laugh. Over the summer, she and I had joked about this happening, about the possibility of everything changing at the last second. The previous English teacher, a wonderful woman of God who inspired my love of English, was unfortunately experiencing too many health issues and realized she needed to retire. With only a week before school, the next seven days passed by in a blurred flurry of anxiety and excitement. I remember tearing down all my decor from the Yearbook room, seeing what I could re-purpose for my new classroom, rushing to the School Supply Store, and desperately trying to assist the previous English Teacher in organizing her classroom (now MY classroom), all the while creating lesson plans for the first week of school.

Looking back now, I am so grateful for the help of my husband and mother who came to help me transform the classroom into my own space. I am so thankful for the previous English teacher who loved on me and prayed over me. I am so in awe of God’s amazing plan. All summer long, as I prayed for the job, he was preparing the heart of the previous teacher to relinquish her classroom that had become her home. All summer long, as I prayed for the job, he was preparing MY heart for what became a most memorable year . . .