Surviving the first year

Surviving the first year

This year, the high school has not made too many adjustments to the staff, but the changes that they did make affected the new teachers’ lives greatly. The new teachers are English teacher Kristen Bramhall, special education teacher Chelsea Stone, English teacher Melissa Dale and physical education teacher Daniel Mennen. All of the new teachers have managed to make it through their first year, but not without some worthwhile hardships.

“The year has been good,” Bramhall said. “I’ve had a lot of challenges and rewarding experiences.”

Like any other teacher, Bramhall has had to face the same problems with her way of teaching and the students. Even then she tries her best to rule out personal problems and work with her students.

“It’s really obvious when a student doesn’t want to be in your class,” Bramhall said. “So, it’s hard when someone has zero interest in what you are teaching. It’s like trying to have a conversation with someone, and they’re not even there.”

Luckily, the other teachers in the building are here to help the newcomers fall into their new roles. So, when a teacher is having problems with their methods, they can easily get advice.

“I would not be anywhere if it weren’t for the teachers in the English department,” Bramhall said. “My department is everything to me. If I ever have a question on what I’m actually teaching, or about classroom management. They’re the most helpful resource I could every imagine.”

Becoming a teacher in this building has not only increased the staff, it has helped Bramhall in many ways. Even though she has many different resources, making mistakes is inevitable.

“You can’t control everything,” Bramhall said. ” You have to learn how to deal with that early or you will lose your mind. And that’s just life too.”

Stone has had a different teaching experience, due to the fact that she teaches students with learning disabilities. To her, seeing the kids meet their academic goals is one of the best parts.

“I think new teachers have a huge learning curve,” Stone said. “There’s a lot we have to teach ourselves. We have a few days of training and our time getting our degree, but it’s just not enough time to be fully prepared for what we do.”

At times, Stone would have problems communicating the best way to teach her kids, based off of what the kid needs and what the parents want. Finding a common ground is a bigger part of her job.

“As teachers we are more than willing to take feedback from our students,” Stone said. “It’s how we shape our lessons. So if something is not working for you, don’t hesitate to let your teacher know.”

Stone shares a room with teacher Patrick Mattingly. So it is easy to get help when she needs it.

“I think it took me about the whole first semester to get used to things,” Stone said. “A huge chunk of my job is not about just teaching the kids, it’s a lot of other things. I did not know how much of my day was going to be dedicated to those things.” Some of those things involve emailing parents, contacting other teachers and different training for the kids.

Some teachers have previous experience, like Dale, who taught at Dowling Catholic before she came to teach here.

“I wish I would’ve known how much I would love working in a public school, because I would’ve made the switch sooner,” Dale said. “They have blocked schedules over there, and my class sizes are bigger here. So, I had to get used to a lot of things within the first semester.”

On top of having to understand the new system in the school, Dale has also recently had a baby last spring. Yet, she still is looking forward to teaching AP language next year.

“I expect to get more involved with Student Council next year,” Dale said. “I was in Student Council at Dowling before I came here.”

As soon as the teachers do get used to things, they can start to figure out their own strengths and weaknesses. Some teachers, like Mennen, have a favorite class or time of year. For him, it is late spring because of tennis.

“It took me until a couple of months ago to really be completely settled,” Mennen said. “I know that seems like a long time, but that’s how long it took me to get the dynamics of everything.”

Even though it took most of the year for Mennen to settle in, that meant there was more room for struggling. It takes an adaptable person to start teaching for their first year. There are new struggles that the teacher will have to face. Maybe even for the first time.

“I had trouble trying to be relaxed and authoritative at the same time,” Mennen said. He had a hard time with one of his health classes as well. “I’m not the type of person that wants to be controlling, but I also want to be open and relaxed.”

After some time, Mennen was able to get a grasp on what he wants for next year and how he wants things to go in his classes, based off of what he has seen this year.

“All I can ask is that you have some patience with us,” Mennen said. “In my opinion treat that teacher with respect. There are more times that I want to go out of my way for a student that comes to me with a genuine concern or is respectful, than a person that is disrespectful. That’s one of the hardest things as well, always treating a student with the respect that they deserve, when they are not respectful to me.”

Three out of the four teachers will be returning next year. Dale, Stone and Mennen will be here again, but Bramhall will not. She is getting married this summer and will be moving to Santa Maria, California with her fiancé who is in the Air Force, but she plans to keep on teaching.

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