InClass

First-year teacher Katee Hurst reflects on completing her first half of a year as a teacher.

Jan 21, 2022

After a calm winter break, first-year teacher Katee Hurst is back in her second-grade classroom with renewed energy.

Hurst’s winter break coincided with her dog, “Remi,” recovering from surgery, which gave her even more reason to stay at home and relax. Hurst enjoyed a lot of watching TV and napping next to her recovering Goldendoodle. It was much needed after a whirlwind end to the first half of the year.

“It was very fast and very hectic,” she says. “Those last two weeks flew by and we had all these things to do. We were very burnt out, my whole team. The last day – it was that last Friday – we were like, ‘Yes, thank you. Thank you so much,’ because all of us were so ready. The kids were ready. We were ready. Everybody was ready for a break.”

Now, she and her students are back in the classroom and Hurst is feeling how similar the first days back in January feel like the very first days of the school year.

“We've been a little rough, because you have to relearn all of the procedures,” she explains. “So, like the first Monday back, we spent a lot of time talking about how we can be kind, how we can be respectful, how we can show integrity, which we tied to the rules on campus, and then we went through our class promise. ‘We promised ourselves at the beginning of the year that we were going to be good classmates. Let's talk about the ways that you said you were going to be good classmates.’ I almost, like, started over and treated it like it was the first day of school.”

While it's taking some effort to get her students back into the routine of the school day, she’s excited to see where the rest of the school year takes them.

“They have done a lot of growth in that first half,” she says. “But we’re also still midway through and, especially just coming back from break, I realize ‘OK, you’re not quite third graders yet, but we’re going to get you there.’”

They’re embracing that growth together. As a New Years activity and an exercise in writing details that support a main idea, each student wrote a goal for themselves for 2022 and then selected a main word to represent that goal. Students put their word in the center of a star and reasons for why that was their goal word in the points of the star.

One student chose “chatting.” When Hurst asked her to share more about it, she said that she wanted to make new friends and also participate in class more. Hurst says that she was so impressed by this student’s self-reflection.

“She knows she’s a little shy and wants to reach out more,” she says.

Another student chose the word “growth.” When Hurst asked that student about why they chose that word, the student said, “I want to learn my math facts. I know my letters now. I want to learn how to read. My dad told me that when I learn how to read, it opens up a whole new opportunity!”

In the midst of everything happening in her classroom, Hurst is also preparing for a big life change. She is in the process of buying a house and expecting to close in mid-February and move in soon after. That timeline overlaps with an especially busy time of the school year. She knows she’s headed for some lessons on work-life balance and time management. 

“It’s so exciting. There are exciting things happening all around me. But also, I think it’s a lot at the same time. This is a lot, but I know I can do it. I know I can handle it.”  

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