By Katelyn Bartlett, Fourth Grade Teacher, Prince of Peace School
The bell rang as I found myself wide-eyed in an empty classroom at the end of the school day. My five-year-old self had dreamed of this day my whole life; standing in the front of a well-groomed classroom, teaching a lesson that would dramatically change kid’s lives, placing shiny gold stickers on their homework before feeding them a nice snack and sending them home. That surely wasn’t what it looked like. It was messy, difficult, and oh so challenging, but that feeling I felt afterwards was so much better than I could have imagined. That was my first day of school as a teacher with Prince of Peace School in Milwaukee, a Seton Catholic School.
Hills and Valleys
I was raised in a family that was rooted in faith. Our faith was at the center of our home. It shaped and molded everything we did and as I grew up, my faith only became stronger. Quickly, I realized I didn’t want it to be something that I kept for myself, but something that I needed to share with others. After graduating high school, I attended Alverno College where I earned my degree in Early Childhood education. After graduation, I found Seton Catholic Schools, and now, my faith is the center of my classroom.
I remember one day in particular. We were exploring different landforms and comparing them. This day, we were looking at hills and valleys. I was reminded of a song by Tauren Wells called “Hills and Valleys.” I played the song for my students and as I stood in the back of the classroom and looked out at my kids, listening to their sweet voices trying to follow along with the words, I got a little teary-eyed. My thoughts were flooded with thankfulness; thankful to serve in a school where we get to talk about faith. Afterwards, we talked about how sometimes in life, we experience a hard time, or a valley. Other times, we’re on a hill. However, whether we’re in a valley or on a hill, God is present. We listen to this song often and each time I hear their little voices humming, I’m reminded why I am so thankful to work for Seton Catholic Schools.
Seton is not only a place where we get to celebrate faith. It is also paired with rigorous academics. As a first-year teacher, this can be a scary thought. I wondered, can I teach to the level and in the way that I am expected to? The answer is yes. Teachers in the Seton network receive tremendous support, specifically first-year teachers. If you would have told me that just months into my first year of teaching that I would have felt this confident in the classroom and that I would be surrounded by a large support system and mentor team, I would’ve never believed it. My confidence as an educator is a direct result of the support I experience from Seton. Colleagues, instructional coaches and other Seton representatives have poured countless resources, feedback and encouragement into me so much. They’ve built me up and helped me establish the tools necessary to ensure that my students are successful in the classroom.
A Beautiful Mess
That first day of school that I talked about earlier (the messy, difficult, and challenging one) was filled with hills and valleys –a kid cried on me, we took way too long to distribute school supplies (75 minutes), a few kids showed up without any school supplies, I got our line lost on the way to recess because I used the wrong stairwell, and believe me, the kids made sure to let me know. Needless to say, it wasn’t perfect. But somehow, it was so beautiful. Beautiful because I watched 26 young students look to me to be their guide. And although I never felt as much responsibility as I did that day, I also never felt as much opportunity. As I found myself wide- eyed in an empty classroom at the end of a school day, I felt ready, ready for day two. Ready to grow alongside the students that told me that they wanted to become doctors, teachers, soccer players, artists and Starbucks baristas. It’s been several months since that day, and some days have felt like hills, and other days like valleys. But each one has been worth it – especially when I see the gleam of joy in their eyes and someone says, “Look Ms. Bartlett, look what I did!”