My First Year of Teaching

This blog post has absolutely nothing to do with technology…and it takes us all the way back to 2005…to my first year of teaching. Buckle your seatbelts for a wild ride, readers.

Picture this: I interviewed for my very first teaching job on crutches, wearing sweatpants, all while sweating profusely from the medication I was currently taking. You see, I was in a bad car accident over Thanksgiving break and broke my femur. Things didn’t seem to really be working in my favor to get the dream teaching job all my professors kept talking about.

But, surprise! I got the GIG!!! The job started in January. You know how it goes. I was a mid-year graduate and “those jobs are hard to find.”

Keep picturing…

My first day. A fight breaks out. The teacher on crutches (ahem, ME) wonders if he should get in the ring, amidst the punches and the kicks and the random hair pulling and risk another femoral break.

Nope. Not today.

That short first day note should give you a thorough, but quick little insight on how things were going on the job. And it paints a pretty nice picture of some of the obstacles laid out in my path. School was great and super informative, but they NEVER prepare you for the real deal. I don’t think it’s possible. But I’m a realist (and extreme optimist) and I knew I could still make something good happen for my students.

Stay with me. It’s still 2005. I’m still on the path…and I’m still on crutches. And technology was barely even a thing during this time. There were no Chromebooks, no iPads, no personal devices. I had a difficult time managing behavior in the class while trying to keep everyone actively engaged with all those epic PowerPoints and worksheets I was throwing out. That’s when I decided to do as many hands-on projects as I could get away with…and, you guys, IT WORKED.

Now, hold on to your seats. Let’s fast-forward to 2019 really quick. Keep picturing…

I’m roaming through the expo hall of the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FL and up walks Jordan Windham (Pictured above…Yeah, way up there at the top). One of my former students. One of my first year students. (The year of the crutches, y’all.) She’s all grown up now, sharing the love and spreading creativity all over Florida, as a high school social studies teacher. While we were catching up and chatting about the weather and family and crazy kids, she said, “Remember when you had us make those travel brochures to the different planets?”


But, shockingly enough, I’ve randomly had another one of these first year students say something very similar about another assignment…

“Remember when you made us write a story about a rock and his/her journey through the rock cycle?”

At this point, my brain wheels are turning hard. Recollecting and remembering and reminiscing.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember who won the Super Bowl the year before (don’t we all just guess the Patriots by default at this point, though…*insert dramatic eye roll here*), let alone an assignment from my 8th grade teacher. Or can I?

I can vividly remember my 8th Grade Gifted Teacher creating a Mock Trial because some doofus named Brian Buffington broke a stink bomb filled with sulfur in the corner of the classroom. She made a lesson out of it…and I received corporal punishment! What a way to make a mark…errr, memory!

Brian Buffington - My First Year of Teaching

Now, let’s jet back to 2005. I was not an exemplary teacher by any stretch of the imagination. I was a surviving teacher. And I didn’t know it at the time, but hands-on, creative application of content was the key to student engagement and retention. And the added bonus? Now, that was an unexpected prize…Student behavior and overall moral improved when I loosened the reins and gave students a creative outlet.

Now, here we are in 2019. The same ideas still apply. However, there are now a million different ways to get students actively engaged with learning. We’ve never had more access to computers, worldwide information, and creative applications than we do in this moment in time, right now.

I’m paraphrasing Roosevelt here, but we can only do what we can, with what we have, where we are. And, teachers, we quite literally have the world at our fingertips. Let’s share it with our students, giving them ample opportunities to learn and grow and thrive, encouraging them to explore the all the creative possibilities that come their way.

Now, Hollywood didn’t decide to make a blockbuster hit out of my teaching experience like that Michelle Pfeiffer movie with the Coolio song, but living a life that facilitates creating experiences and unforgettable learning opportunities for your students…that’s real life. And real work. That’s something Hollywood can’t quite replicate.

Brian Buffington - My First Year of Teaching