Year One, Part Two


I’m drawn back to the aromas of deli platters and the sounds of dice crawling on the table for the game. I’m reminded of the warm, parting hugs from my coworkers that became my second family. I’m reminded of the words my work “big brother” Andrew told me the night before I left my hometown that I will do great things at my new school. The difficulties of being a first-year teacher would hit the biggest reset button for my year two of teaching. I moved to another district. It would be my second district in as many years.

My move brought all of the positives I wanted and needed: closer to my girlfriend, back in the area with most of my college roommates, close to a college campus for graduate school, and a new area to explore and grow. The sacrifices it took to claim these benefits did not come easy. I moved away from my family and I moved away from the small rural school community that accepted me for who I was when my hometown district rejected me.

Jump into August of 2017, I couldn’t get into my classroom until a couple days before school started. I’m juggling three preps, coaching, playing rugby (RIP rugby dream), adjusting to the new curriculum, and trying to gel with new coworkers, alongside trying to fit into a school that just experienced massive turnover. My principal, who is the best administrator I have ever been around, rallied all of us and reminded us that change is scary and good. Her words echoed and foreshadowed this school year.

Fortunately, I have great coworkers throughout the building and a fantastic 8th-grade team at my new school. I work with great people with a similar sense of humor and a great sense of support. I had multiple coworkers take me to work after my knee surgery. My other 8th grade ELA teacher is supportive. It is nice to be paired up with another male who has his own family and past administrative experience, all things I aspire to obtain in my life. Last and certainly not least is my co-teacher, who has saved me more times than she will admit.

The scary and good elements of a new school have beaten me down but ignite my spirit to come back and make a kid’s day. Trying to teach a wide variety of students that range from affluent backgrounds to ones that have nothing to eat because food stamps haven’t arrived yet. There have been multiple times before I start a lesson, I’ll give a couple kids a granola bar since they couldn’t have breakfast in hopes they can focus on class. This doesn’t make me special or some type of hero, it makes me realize that all of my coworkers are doing the same. It makes me realize I made the right move here. I’m given even more reinforcement and support at home when my amazing girlfriend (who also teaches 8th grade ELA) Can listen and know EXACTLY where I’m coming from.

So once the year completes, I will have conquered my challenges. But alas, as I have come to learn, more challenges and changes will occur, such as graduate school (crossing my fingers I get in!) and try to juggle the many responsibilities we have as educators. It seems too much for a 24-year-old guy who can’t cook, but I’m surrounded by the best people who will help. It is scary and good.


Shoutout to those educators that do all of this AND HAVE KIDS. You are all the real MVPs!

Rafael Benitez teaches English/ Language Arts at Bunger Middle School in Waterloo.