published Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Harpe: Growing in life by returning to schedules of the past

By Corin Harpe

Every year I approach the month of August with a sense of anticipation. When I was a student, this month was filled with feelings of stress, nervousness and excitement. August meant that I was about to experience a new year in my life because, as a student, the years were marked by grade level, and we looked forward to milestones based on what our peers had experienced in the grades above us.

The elementary years were characterized by achievement. Many students found success through academics; some might remember what it was like to be lost in a book for the first time. Others experienced sports achievements: first soccer goal, first touchdown, first gymnastics landing.

The middle school years were fraught with new anxieties. Achievement didn't come as easily, and it was less frequently celebrated. There were new social norms and our friends changed. There was pressure to be well-liked and to be a part of the "cool" group of kids. Feeling judged was a frequent emotion.

High school was unique for everyone. Toward the end of these four years, many people became comfortable in their own skin and experienced a sense of establishment. Others were still finding themselves, which was accepted. The college years were the first time that many students felt independent and, like being in elementary school again, everything was new, exciting and open to possibility.

All these years our lives did not begin in January with the start of the new year, but instead in August with the beginning of the school year. When many people reach adulthood, they lose the sense of their years being measured by the start of the school year. The years have a tendency to blend together.

In the teaching profession is that my years are still measured on the student scale. With my second year of teaching rolling around this August, I am just as scared, nervous and excited as my students. Instead of tracking my childhood and adolescent years, the school year marks my adult life and professional growth.

The first year as a teacher was a time of learning, a time to experience everything for the first time. It was a year open to mistakes and corrections. Hopefully, in this second year, I will have overcome the shock of all the newness, but there will be added pressure to be more of an expert on everything.

I do, however, find much delight in the things that I already know. The first-day jitters will be softened because I will be familiar with how my students will talk, act and behave. I will also be comfortable with the academic content and patterns of student learning. I am enjoying the slight state of relaxation and confidence compared to the feeling of being overwhelmed at the beginning of last year.

And I am experiencing the milestones of my career much like my students. As their differing levels of knowledge, experience and even insecurities change throughout the years, mine will, too.

Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail.com.

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