An Institute Reflection

*I wrote and saved this as a draft a few days ago but it’s ready to be published now*

This morning is the start of TFA orientation. One of the first sessions we are engaging in is an Institute Reflection. I’ve spent a lot of time engaging in reflection about institute in the last week, as well as the last 5 when I was actively engaged in it. For me, the reflecting was how I processed my time there and how I implemented and changed things that needed to be done, as well as allowed myself the freedom of expression and confidence that I needed during my time there. Before heading off to institute, I heard a lot of horror stories. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be AT ALL. One person had said they cried every night, another retold the days of no-sleep, no free time and exhaustion beyond belief. Others mentioned the difficulties they had with the kids. No one ever said that institute was a positive experience or that they enjoyed their time there. Yes, some might of said it was fun but not in the tone of voice or sentence structure that made me truly believe it. I loved my time at institute. While five weeks was a long time to be away from everything, it went by in a snap and most of the time, it felt like five minutes instead. Institute was the first time in a long time that I actually felt like I knew who I was. I had my organization back on point, I felt confident in the progress I was making, in the work I was doing and felt like I had a purpose. There wasn’t any confusion as to what was going to happen next or what wasn’t happening. There wasn’t any fear. For someone that suffers from high anxiety and depression, I was confused when everyone around me was stressed out and I felt completely calm and collected. Those first few days before getting into the classroom and then the next few when we got students were certainly challenging but they weren’t anything that was so foreign or scary and certainly not things that I couldn’t work through. They more so challenged me to think more critically than I had in a while and put a TON of new information into practice. My mind was overloaded with thoughts and knowledge and information on teaching. I feel lucky that the only challenges I went through the whole time were during the last week and they were more so annoyances than real challenges. Despite this, learning how to work through them and with them gave me some insight as to what I might experience in the next few years with colleagues. As for the students, yes, sometimes they were difficult but everyday was a learning experience and I was able to grow as a teacher from the days where no one wanted to be on task and lesson plans got changed mid-way through. I don’t think I’ve ever done as much meaningful reflection as I did during my time away. I took the time every morning to write in my journal–reflecting not only on my experience and the general happenings but the changes I felt surging through me daily. From high school to college to now, I thought that I had become a completely new person but going through this experience allowed me to see the things that are most important to me as far as my personality, diligence and work ethic goes as long as my thoughts and opinions on things that I often spend too much time thinking about. I had been, and always will be, a leader but I am also willing to help in whatever way I can. I will  allow someone else to take the lead if that’s what they need but I can still demonstrate leadership in another way. I feel wrong for saying that I’m ready for this–like I’m being too confident. I am ready though. I’m certainly not perfect and I never will be. There is always more to learn, more to practice and more to review despite the amount of time spent working. There will always be a misbehavior that comes up that wasn’t one of the ones written on a slip of paper. There will be days when the lesson plan needs to go out the window and the only thing to do is think on my feet. There will of course be negatives but the positives are going to outweigh everything else because I already know there will be engagement, rigor, fun and most of all, productive learning. role. I had been, and always will be, extremely diligent and organized. Through college, I thought a lot of my organization disappeared but it came back with a vengeance and it felt great. In general, I crave organization but sometimes need to have it in different ways than I had been used to. I now know that I need to go back to my old organization ways in order to manage my stress and make myself feel good.

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