Young, first-year teacher learns to navigate classroom management

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Teaching can be one of the most rewarding jobs, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Especially when there aren’t that many years between you and the students you’re teaching.

Annette Sparks is a 24-year-old, High School Math teacher. It’s the Mississippi University for Women aluma’s first teaching job.

On top of that, she started in January, the middle of the school year.

“When they come in my classroom, there’s a little bit more of a comfort level because I am closer in age to them, and it’s really hard to create a relationship with students that not anything to do with my age,” Sparks said.

Sparks said because she was so young, she had to set boundaries very quickly and learn to put her foot down.

“The hardest part is gaining their respect before you can be relaxed as a teacher,” Sparks said. “Just Making sure they know ‘I am the teacher, you are the student. I’m here to help you grow as a student. I’m not here to be your best friend. I want what’s best for you in my classroom.'”

Starkville High School English teacher Erica Johnson has a few years on Sparks.

She has 15 years of experience in front of the classroom.

But Johnson was once in Spark’s shoes teaching high school at just 23 years old.

“Sometimes those lines are definitely blurred for them. They look at you more as a friend than as a teacher and an authority figure,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the best advice she could give was to be consistent and fair.

“Treat all kids exactly the same,” Johnson said. “That’s when you get in trouble. You know, when you have favoritism and that sort of thing.”

Before Sparks attended The W, she had a teacher tell her she would never be a teacher, and she set out to prove them wrong.

“It really did motivate me. I wanted to send him a graduation invitation just to show him I’m going to be a math teacher,” Sparks said.

Sparks said even through the challenges she faces, she loves pouring into the next generation of students. And the more seasoned people around her help her grow every day.

“Growing up, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a teacher. But after becoming one and being here for just a short month, I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Sparks said.

“Trust your veteran teachers and those who have been doing it a really long time. You’re not on an Island. You’re not isolated, and you’re not by yourself,” Johnson said.

Sparks said if you’re thinking about becoming a teacher but you’re worried because you may be young, there are people within the school that will help you and want to see you succeed.

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