First year teachers: Pause. And just keep swimming.

KIPPsters sharing their writing about non-traditional jobs that require a college degree.

By Sarah Elizabeth Gonzales, First Grade Teacher, KIPP Austin

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. I found myself tweeting this a few weeks ago when I was feeling what every teacher feels during certain points of the school year: PRESSURE!

The pressure to do everything you can to make sure that every child has a chance to go to college and change their future. That end goal can seem so far away during our daily routine: lesson planning, attending weekly meetings with your manager for feedback, implementing said feedback, holding parent-teacher conferences… plus there’s, oh, eating and sleeping.

Of course, being an elementary school teacher, I had rounds of children’s literature quotes run through my head, “Just keep swimming.” “I think I can, I think I can…” “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” “You’re BRAVER than you believe, STRONGER than you seem, and SMARTER than you think.”

It seems silly that I would find comfort in children’s literature, and maybe it is, but my familiarity with the subject makes it a perfect location to seek solace and find motivation. After all, children’s books are what I use to educate and motivate my children.

KIPPsters bringing their literacy outdoorsThinking back to my first year as a teacher, I remember this feeling of barely keeping my head above water. It lasted much longer than just the month of September. It was more like this time of year before I felt like I had a chance to take a breath and look around. When I did pause and look, I saw much of the same things that I am seeing now: PROGRESS! Progress in my students, progress in my own development, and progress as a community toward our mission: get our students TO AND THROUGH COLLEGE!

It’s worth every extra hour you spend differentiating your lessons, it’s worth the extra time you take to talk to parents, and it’s worth the early mornings and the late evenings. We are making changes. Even though it feels like you don’t have the time, stop and take a moment to soak in the awe-inspiring work you are doing with your students every single day. You are amazing!

I dedicate this post to the first year teachers at KIPP Austin and all the other “first year” teachers out there. Whether it is your first year ever, your first year in a new role, or your first year at a KIPP school, I can promise: YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!  It is all worth it…just keep swimming!


We’re grateful to all teachers out there making a difference in the lives of students. To learn more about teaching at KIPP, click here >