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MCHS math teacher Dan Carr shares the struggles of teaching for the first time

Leylah Moreno, Staff Writer

Math teacher Mr. Dan Carr stood at the front of the classroom in McHenry Community High School, gazing into the faces of his new students. His palms were sweating as he introduced himself, and his stomach was doing backflips. This was his first time teaching his own class, and he was overwhelmed with responsibility. He took a deep breath before he began his first lesson. The first few years of teaching can be hectic and out of control, and this was the case for Carr; but it was these struggles that improved his teaching style.

Back in high school, Carr had already found his natural talent: mathematics. For him, it just clicked so easily, and he enjoyed aiding his fellow classmates to feel the same way. “I liked helping others to understand it and getting them going in the right direction. So that’s how I knew this was the right career for me,” Carr told. He admitted that while it’s not everyone’s first choice, he realized math to be his calling. When he finished his studies, he subbed for many classrooms and was a student teacher. He went through practice to feel comfortable as an educator and felt welcomed. “There’s a lot of training leading up to it, you’re getting so much support,” he admired. “Then, all of a sudden that first year, it’s like, ‘that’s my classroom’, I’m by myself now.” Carr confirmed how scary it was to be teaching on your own. He had no idea what he was in for. 

Carr was now in control and on his own. Like most teachers, the first year was the most troublesome to keep up with all of the responsibilities. After all the training he had endured, he was definitely qualified, but felt inexperienced. At last, he was in his very own classroom as he had wanted all along. He hadn’t expected it to be so hard. Carr disclosed the hardest part of his first year: The classroom management. I thought that would be an easy thing for me because of my jobs subbing, but it did not go the way I thought it would.” Carr dealt with chaos and struggled to control students correctly. His first set of senior students would often make it obvious when they weren’t interested in his lessons or wouldn’t try at all. When he was caught off guard by their lack of effort, he did not handle it well and became overly frustrated. Over time, he was able to find a better style of handling students who weren’t trying their best that would get them to participate. The longer he taught, the better he got.

Even though he felt his first years teaching were somewhat of a trainwreck, he learned valuable lessons moving forward that would help him become a better teacher. He had settled in and was able to develop his own teaching style. Carr got his schedule and management under control and promised to stick to his own rules. One guiding principle is that I make sure to ask, ‘does this help my students learn better?’ So when I look back on my previous years teaching, I question certain habits that seem to be more about tradition than what’s best for my students,” he opened up. Sticking to his personal regulations, Carr has bettered his teaching style.

This has maneuvered his classroom environment into a positive and welcoming place for students to feel comfortable asking questions. “I have learned to be more flexible with due dates and giving the support that students need,” he mentioned. His ideologies of teaching methods not only help his students’ education setting, but help him with keeping them engaged and on their best behavior.

His principles have allowed him to feel more comfortable teaching and connected with his students. His students used to give him a hard time while trying to balance his responsibilities, but Carr changed their learning conditions and it helped them settle down. To students out there with a teacher struggling with their first year: Be patient. First-time teachers are told all these things they’re supposed to do and how to handle the classroom, but then things change once they get into the actual classroom.” Carr understands that new teachers often feel stressed and hopes students can go easy on them.

Educators can be extremely stressed starting out, and it’s important for them to know they aren’t alone. Many new teachers are overwhelmed. After settling in and establishing principles and styles like Carr, teaching won’t be so hard. There may be a few bumps in the road along the way, but it’s worth it.