This was me on my first day of teaching High School. Spare the jokes please. I know I look like I should be a high school student myself.

I look at this picture and want to smack that naive grin off my excited little face.

Full Disclosure: Two months ago, I almost quit my job. The first month was such exquisite hell–students testing me at every turn, students forcing me to make a thousand decisions a minute, students requiring constant nagging, and heavens–oh heavens!–the whining. Students Students Students!

I would yank myself home feeling like I was pulling myself out of a pit where I had just battled the Balrog. My students seemed to morph together into one giant monster of hellfire–and sometimes I felt like the loser of the battle. I would go home, filleted and charred, and all I could do was cuddle Jeremy and hold Hufflepuff and then stare catatonic at the Parks and Recreation while waiting for relief.

…And then the next day would start.

I hated it. I truly hated it. 

And then I learned names. And I saw smidgeons of backstories. And I saw impressive strengths and crippling vulnerabilities. My students became a little less faceless, a little less composite, a little more individual.

And I learned too.

“No Steven*, you may not use the bathroom. Why? Because it’s the eleventh time this week, and your pocket just lit up, so I assume you just want to send a text.”

“Yes Breanne*, I am so sorry to hear about your sister’s miscarriage. Take an extension, turn it in on Monday.”

“Katie* this is not your best work. You and I both know you can do better.”

“Fantastic work, Rogelio.* What progress you’ve made.”

I used to think that a good teacher could get each and every student up in their seats, riveted, learning, scoring well on their tests, and laughing along the way. I used to turn up my nose when teachers moaned about their students not turning in homework assignments. I would be a good teacher. My students would turn things in. My students will LOVE English.

When these things didn’t immediately pan out the way I hoped, I internalized appropriately, mathematically. 

Mrs. Penrod= Bad Teacher.
I’ve only been teaching for three months now, and this is what I know: I know nothing. But 3 months ago I knew negative nothing (which is probably a double negative, but you get the idea).
After battling the Balrog, I’m like… Penrod the Off-White. Not quite grey, not so green, but not pure- white and sage with wisdom just yet (Am I extending this Lord of the Rings analogy too far?).

Time for a transition: Harry Potter Time. I am pleased to announce that, just like Dumbledore, I have an army of students who will now back me up as I head into battle. A literal army. I suppose that should have been on my bucket list before now.

I am not sure what their function is besides to buoy up my self-esteem. My prayer is that they never have to head into actual battle on my behalf. But right now, the occasional love notes that they slip under my door are more than enough to remind me that I don’t want to quit my job.

 I don’t want to quit my job at all. I love my job. 

I want to be a teacher. Because even though I know very little, I know Daniel* and Bethanne* and Rochelle* and Kiley* and Tanna.* I know individuals now, and they make teaching worth it. They even make me feel like Robin Williams in The Dead Poet’s Society. And sometimes, they even make me feel as cool as Dumbledore. 

Students. Students. Students. 





  1. Nov 19, 2012

    This is great! I am so happy for your Sierra! I think you are fantastic too!

  2. Nov 20, 2012

    Love this post Sierra.

  3. Nov 20, 2012

    Call me sentimental and silly, but this totally made me tear up! (Secretly, I know you won't call me sentimental OR silly because I bet it made you tear up, too.)
    You're the best and I'm so glad your students are starting to recognize that.

  4. Nov 20, 2012
    Regan Gull

    "Penrod's Army" has a nice ring to it.

  5. Nov 20, 2012

    Love it! That there is success if ever I did see it. Keep it up–taking the effort to know kids individually and treat them as such will take you worlds farther than any other effort. It opens them up to be able to love what you've got to say. You're doing things right!

  6. Nov 20, 2012

    Did you ask? Can I be in Penrod's army?

  7. Nov 21, 2012
    Tayler Morrell

    I know exactly how you feel. It was the same feeling I had numerous times these past 3 months. I would come home and end up crying in my husband's arms many days. But, as much as I had to same mentality, I truly love my job. I love my coworkers and I love seeing the brilliance of my students. I feel the hardest part (because I teach junior high) is talking and then those who you try so hard help because you want them so so badly succeed and either they won't or they barely miss the mark.

  8. Nov 25, 2012

    Aw, I'm so sorry that things were so hard at first! But look at you, you made it out the other side and goodness gracious! You've got an army behind you! 🙂 Congratulations.

  9. Nov 29, 2012
    Kels H. M.

    Wooo! I'm so proud of you!

  10. Dec 06, 2012

    It is so awesome that you are teaching students instead of classes! I'm sure you're great! Can I be part of the army reserves?