A Message from WELV Board of Directors

April 2021

A Message from the Women Education Leaders of Virginia (WELV) Board of Directors to First Year Teachers in 2020-2021

Teaching is a job like no other. As those of us who have done it know, educating students is only part of the job. You, First Year Teacher, have found that you are also a caretaker, a nurse, a social worker, a circus performer, a data analyst, and a set designer, among other things. The tasks set before you are seemingly endless. And while the first year of being thrust into what feels like a never-ending roller coaster ride is exhilarating, it is also so very hard.

Most members of the WELV Board vividly remember the first time we ran our own classrooms and the many tears that we shed during that first year. We remember asking ourselves every day, “How do I do this? How do I ensure that these students learn? What if I’m not effective? Why won’t these children listen to me? Am I cut out for this? What am I even doing here?” Please know this—all of these feelings are normal for any first year teacher. We have all been there.

Do you know where we haven’t been, though? We haven’t landed in our new roles as first year teachers during a global pandemic.

What you have had to do this year is beyond the scope of what you (or any of us) have ever imagined. In addition to the normal first-year anxieties and fears, you have also had to do more with less. You have had less instructional time with your students. Many of you have had to learn to teach over web applications. Many of you have had to teach small children how to stay away from you and one another, when their very natures demand that they get as close to their teachers and their friends as they can! You have had to teach proper mask-wearing and hand-washing. You have had to deal with your own fears and losses and traumas, while also helping your students to deal with theirs. And you’ve had to do all of this largely in a vacuum, since you have had to isolate from many of your own friends and extended families due to lockdowns and social distancing requirements.

And you—you brave, strong, smart soul—you have persevered. You are probably feeling a little battered and quite exhausted, but you have almost made it! You are on the cusp of having survived the granddaddy of all first years. You have probably experienced some successes and some failures this year, but that is absolutely to be expected under these circumstances. The most important thing is that you did it! You should be so proud of yourself. We, the Board of Directors of WELV are so very, very proud of you. You have stood firm and resolute. You have wiped your tears away a hundred times and you have gone back to work each day to do the best that you could do during a global crisis. Amazing. You are amazing.

If you are reading this as someone who either supervises or loves first year teachers, go find those wonderfully strong people and let them know that you acknowledge that the unique difficulties they have faced this year are unprecedented. Buy them candy bars or flowers or just give them sincere “thank yous”. Let them know that despite whatever failures they may have experienced this year, their greatest success is simply not having quit. Let them know that you recognize that what’s been required of them this year has been nearly impossible for any teacher, but most especially for first year teachers. Let them know that having lived this experience, while having been extraordinarily difficult, will certainly make them better teachers—and better leaders—moving forward.

We, the Board of Directors of WELV, are in awe of you. And we are so excited to see what this cohort of first year teachers will do in the years to come. Thank you most sincerely for not giving up. We know you are going to do great things.