Lessons learned after 177 Days: Celebrate triumphs and make plans to improve

Natalie Nelson, Michael Bennett, Brandi Latimer, Mariela Niland, Shelbi Craig

Last fall, we asked five first-year teachers to share their experiences with us through a blog called 177 Days, and over the past year, our bloggers have learned a number of valuable lessons, such as the importance of having a back-up plan (Natalie Nelson), the discovery that little things can make a big difference (Shelbi Craig), how meeting with parents can improve both their own and their students’ performance (Michael Bennett), why setting behavioral expectations early is so critical to success (Brandi Latimer), and even the importance of staying well-nourished during the day (Mariela Niland).

Now the regular academic year is coming to a close, so we asked our bloggers to share some parting words with us before they cleaned out their desks and closed up their classrooms for the summer.

“Overall, this year has been remarkable,” said Michael Bennett, who teaches second-graders at Cage Elementary School. “When I first started teaching, I knew what was expected of me, but I didn’t quite know what to expect of myself. I am really looking forward to next year so that I can take all I learned this year and refine my practices.”

Adjusting both their behavior and their expectations was a common theme among our bloggers, when asked what they would have done differently if they could do it all over again.

“I would have enforced classroom procedures more consistently from the very first day,” said Shelbi Craig, who teaches seventh-graders at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy (YWCPA).

“At the beginning of the school year, I had all these grand plans,” added Natalie Nelson, who teaches government and economics at Chávez High School. “But I’ve found implementing those things has been way more difficult than I anticipated.”

One of the biggest epiphanies of the year may well have been the one that Mariela Niland experienced.

“You’ve probably heard the saying before, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,’” said Niland, who teaches eighth-graders at the YWCPA. “I realize now that this is a romanticized view…and a more realistic saying would be, ‘Do what you love, and it will make all the hard work worth it.’”

To read some of the past year’s entries from all five bloggers, please visit www.177days.com. And check back on the HISD website later this summer, when the district will debut a new blog featuring students from the EMERGE program.