About this series
This article concludes a 2013-14 school year-long look at the experiences of Megan Barton and Kendall Robinson, first-year teachers in the Forsyth County school system. The FCN visited with them last week as they prepared to release students Friday for summer vacation.
FORSYTH COUNTY -- As they approach the end of their first school year as teachers, Megan Barton and Kendall Robinson are both tired and inspired.
It’s been a year of learning. It’s been a year of firsts. But both young educators said they are more confident in their career decisions now than they were on the first day back in August.
As part of an occasional series, the Forsyth County News has followed Barton and Robinson throughout the school year. For the final installment, the FCN caught up with them last week as they prepared to release students Friday for summer vacation.
Barton is going to miss her first fourth-grade class at Midway Elementary, whom she said taught her so much during her first year as a teacher.
They were a great group to learn from and one that she’s really “grown to love.” Their parents have been even more helpful and generous during her first year, according to Barton.
As she heads back for a few days of post planning this week before her summer officially begins, Barton paused to reflect on the past 10 months.
“It’s definitely been a learning year for me, but it went really well,” she said. “You never have another first year ... I’ve experienced every day of the school year, I’ve experience the first day, Christmas break, CRCTs ... through the last day, so having that experience going on your second year, I’ll have a lot more confidence and less stress.”
While it was her first year teaching on her own, Barton credited the smooth year to her experience at the University of North Georgia. Her entire senior year was spent all day in a classroom, which prepared her for taking over her own after graduation.
“Had I not had that, I would have been really overwhelmed,” she said.
One thing college didn’t teach her is the emotional investment teachers make.
“When they know that you care and know that you’re there for them, they perform so much better,” she said of her students. “They’re more apt to complete homework and do extra assignments when they know you care.
“You have to build those relationships with your kids first in order to have a successful year.”
Barton said she plans to enjoy a relaxing summer with her husband, going to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and spending time at the pool with friends and family.
But between her days in the sun, Barton said she’ll also start planning for the upcoming school year.
The last few weeks in Barton’s class have been filled with big projects. It’s been a chance for her to see how much her students have learned during the year.
“When you see the kid who is struggling with something and then you see them becoming successful, it’s just such a great feeling because you feel so proud of that child and what they have accomplished,” she said. “These last few weeks ... I’ve really gotten to see what they know and it’s been great.
“Those moments kind of define it and make you know this is what you want to do.”
The end of the school year has not been all fun and games for Kendall Robinson, a math teacher at South Forsyth High School.
With end of course testing and final exams leading right up to the last days of school, she said her students are “having to remember things that we went over at the beginning of the semester.”
“That’s harder than when you’re just teaching,” Robinson said. “We haven’t had a break since spring, so it’s just this long stretch of teaching and testing until the end of the year.”
But even with the end-of-year stresses, Robinson loves her job.
“My whole year has been really good,” she said. “The best thing has been building relationships with my students and seeing them grow and seeing them develop their own personalities.
“I enjoy it a lot and I don’t know what else I would do if I wasn’t teaching. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
With her first year nearly behind her, Robinson said she plans to learn new things as a teacher, because “no matter what, you’re always learning.”
“I don’t think anyone goes into a year saying I know everything and, with teachers, we’re always learning,” she said. “There are always going to be hiccups, but you just have to go with them and learn from them and just adapt and do things differently.”
Robinson said she’s really connected with a couple of students this year, and some have been asking her if she’s going to have the same room next year so they can visit. Those have been rewarding conversations, but no more than when a student comes to her for help after class.
“I like the fact that they’re comfortable and they’re not afraid to ask questions,” she said.
Robinson has no plans for the summer, other than relaxing and spending time with family. She was asked to teach during the summer, but having done so during college, “I decided to just take a break.”
“It will be the first summer I’ve actually had off in a long time,” she said.
When the 2014-15 years begins in August, Robinson said she’ll have more confidence than she did at the beginning of the year. She’ll still go to other teachers for guidance, and will be happy to be a resource for next year’s first-time teachers.
But with a new group of students next year, there will always be a learning curve.
“You can’t have the same method and the same routines with each group of students that you have because with personalities, they’re all so different so I feel like you have to change each year,” she said. “But within the first month, you get into the routine of things and it just becomes easier.”