As educators, we often come into the field with the perfect grade level in mind. I thought it would be ideal to teach second grade. Not too young, where students are still gaining independence and learning basic skills. Not too old, where they’re bigger than me (an ongoing short joke for myself, as I’m only 5’3”).
When I actually began to teach second grade, I quickly realized that this was going to be tougher than I expected. My second grade students were great. I enjoyed my interactions with them. I enjoyed planning engaging lessons around stories such as Stone Soup, and teaching how to tell time. My students were independent enough to complete tasks given to them, but still wanted input and help with their work.
But what I didn’t anticipate were the many challenges coming my way. I’d heard all of the first year teacher horror stories, but I felt like this was different.
VIDEO: New Teacher Survival Guide: Differentiating Instruction
- Differentiation. I faced wide ability ranges. I had students who were working on sight word recognition and students who were reading at a sixth-grade level. I had students who were working on basic addition and students who were multiplying three digit numbers.
- Paperwork. Differentiating for all of these ability levels required different practice sheets, depending on the student. I was fortunate to work with an amazing team with whom I planned, and who helped a ton. But all of this paperwork had to be assessed, as well.
- Assessment. I was completely oblivious to how much a second grader is tested throughout a school year. Once these tests are scored, the data is used as a driving point for the next semester.
As a new teacher, it was overwhelming.
I spent the year giving it my best efforts, with the support of my team and a new teacher mentor, but I never really felt completely adequate.