As the 2020-21 school year came to an end, ten Charles Butt Scholar alumni in their first years as Texas teachers shared their learnings and reflections with us. The stories, struggles, and triumphs showcased in this Q&A portfolio provide an honest look at what it’s like to be a new teacher.

Q What does teaching and learning look like right now in your classroom?

A My students are much more proficient with their Chromebooks this year and we are able to complete more online activities. I love having the ability to utilize so many technological resources to extend learning.

Q What is something you’ve learned from a student this year?

A I have learned patience this year. I know I am not always the most patient person, and I like to keep a fast pace; however, I really needed to slow down and realize that this year would not be like all of the rest. Due to the gaps from interrupted learning, my students needed me to be patient with them as we filled those gaps together.

Q What was a challenge you faced this school year and how did you overcome it?

A My biggest challenge this school year has been navigating teaching during COVID-19. With so many new rules and regulations, it has been a learning curve for everyone. I think a lot of students are missing out on critical interactions with their peers due to distance and mask guidelines. We have had a lot of social-emotional learning (SEL) conversations focused on reading each other’s body language, listening to each other’s voices, and understanding that a mask can sometimes cause us to misread someone.

Q What have you seen over the course of this school year that gives you hope/optimism about Texas public schools?

A I am extremely grateful for all of the staff and parents who have taken the initiative to get themselves vaccinated. I am so proud to see all of the people who are working hard to help our society be happy and healthy again. I look forward to our community opening up more and more as we continue into the next school year.

Q What is a practice/strategy you will take from your teaching experience during Covid and integrate into future (non-Covid) years?

A I will definitely be more intentional in incorporating social-emotional learning (SEL) practices in the future because I have truly learned the importance of it during Covid teaching. I did not always see the benefit of intentionally placing time for SEL every day, but this year has shown me how beneficial it can be for my students.

Q What advice or encouragement do you have for teachers starting their careers in the 2021-22 school year?

A My biggest advice for teachers who are starting their careers in the 2021-22 school year would be to breathe. I really learned what it means to take care of myself this year and I think it is something that every new teacher should learn how to do. It is so easy to get caught up in lesson planning, creating activities, and working outside of your duty time. I highly encourage new teachers to find something they are passionate about and pursue it.