A Reflection on My First Year of Teaching

Cue “Celebration” because I’M DONE WITH MY FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING!!!!!!

I thought this day would never come. There were times when I thought I would surely die. It is a literal miracle that I survived this year. Praise the Lord!

This year was unquestionably my hardest so far, but simultaneously my best. It definitely yielded the most growth. Here’s a list of lessons I learned:

1. Nobody likes to be forced to do stuff. Never force.
2. Meet people where they are. Validate, and then teach.
3. Always express gratitude. Ingratitude is incredibly annoying.
4. As management goes, it’s easier to loosen up later than tighten later.
5. Exercise is a key to happiness for me.
6. Trials pay off if you see them through to the blessing. Not if you quit.
7. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.
8. God knows better.
9. Things work out. It will be okay.
10. Good leaders inspire with love, not fear.
11. Being single can be awesome. (Another post to come on this one.)
12. I’m happiest when I’m authentically Amber.
13. Being liked isn’t as important as being respected.

There it is. I’m grateful for this amazing, super difficult experience. Those kiddos will always hold a special place in my heart. Here’s to Summer!

The Anatomy of a “Menace to Society”

All my life I’ve heard snide references to the concept of a “menace to society”, as Brigham Young allegedly referred to unmarried people over the age of 25.

According to Brigham Young, yesterday I became a menace to society.

Although I’m aware that Brigham Young’s time was different than ours, and he was actually talking about men, and he may not have even said it, I want to make one thing abundantly clear:

I am not a menace to society.

I spend 9 hours, 5 days a week, with 20 children who are the leaders of tomorrow. I’m teaching them how to think critically. I’m teaching them how to clearly articulate their opinions in writing, and how to determine accurate and inaccurate sources of information. I’m teaching them about current events, and we’re discussing what kinds of things we can and can’t control. I’m teaching them to be thoughtful readers. I’m teaching them about the world around them and the vastness of the universe. I’m teaching them how to persevere through problem solving as they learn to solve algebraic expressions. I’m teaching them to be kind, respectful, and responsible. I’m teaching them to express gratitude and think about the needs of others before their own. I’m teaching them to fight back to bullies and stand up for people who are getting bullied. I’m teaching them that they are special, and they can can accomplish whatever they put their minds to if they’re willing to work hard.

I don’t really know what a menace to society is, but I think society would be full of a lot more menaces if we didn’t have teachers.

That’s all.

Making a Difference

Yesterday, I told my mentor teacher that I want to be a music teacher. This is our subsequent conversation:

Me: Teaching just isn’t what I expected.
Her: What did you expect?
Me: Well, I thought I’d be making a difference all the time.
Her: You are making a difference.
Me: Well, I’m not happy. I want to be a music teacher.
Her: I thought you said you want to make a difference.
Me: Uhh yeah. Music changes lives!
Her: Science, math, and language arts are what change lives. That’s how the kids will get jobs. If you want to change lives, general education is the way. They don’t need music.
Me: *Internal screaming and disagreeing with every fiber of my being.*

When I think of my teachers that changed my life, the first ones that come to mind are Mr. Larson, Mrs. Chantry, Mrs. Jensen, and Dr. Fullmer. Music teachers absolutely make a difference. I want to be a music teacher so I can help kids see a more beautiful side of the human experience. So they can have tools to cope when life gets hard. So they can learn to work hard at something and achieve great results. So they can appreciate something that took more than 30 seconds to create. Kids need music.


Everybody needs music. My music teachers continue to change my life.

I Know Why There’s a Teacher Shortage

The nation is currently experiencing a gigantic teacher shortage, and has declared a crisis. In fact, it’s such a crisis that they’ve decided anyone can be a teacher, with or without a degree or teaching license.

Thanks for the respect, America.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, from my earliest games of School and Kindergarten career day. I entered the field soon after graduating, excited to change the world one student at a time.

In the thick of my first year teaching full-time, my rose-colored glasses were forced off my face by a pressure kick to my back so powerful it caused my body to careen to the 40-year old stained carpet floor, leaving me face-down in years of Elmer’s glue, dirt, spit balls, and kid extract.

That kick came in the form of data analysis, which is essentially what teachers do these days.


We take the tests the kids will take, teach the content of that test, administer the test, grade the test, analyze that data, and repeat the cycle a million more times. Not fun.

Speaking of not being fun… I entered this field as a creative, young college graduate. My creativity was immediately stripped of me, because the District has no many required programs that don’t allow me to create or really adapt my teaching to meet the needs of my students. Teachers are not allowed creative autonomy, which prevents us from utilizing our resources and being the best teachers we could be.


Another reason there’s a teacher shortage is it’s really hard to feel good about yourself when you’re a teacher. Everything is our fault, and we get very little respect. Society is always criticizing us, parents are constantly complaining, and administrators are always telling us what we’re doing wrong. I’d rather be in a place where my hard work is appreciated and respected.


So there you have it. This is why such a high number of teachers quit within the first 5 years.

Take a Break

Happy UEA! Utah public schools are currently on break, which means I’ve had ample time to Netflix and chill the last few days.

Contrary to the practices of pretty much every teacher I had from 1st to 12th grade, I decided to not give my students homework over the break. More than one student said, “Miss Blair, are you going to give us a packet?” indicating years of conditioning by previous teachers. But I just responded, “Heck no! Do you know how much work that would be for me?”

But in all seriousness, I really don’t think the culture of homework packets over breaks is appropriate. The purpose of a break is to take a break, not get more work! Being able to take a break is a skill that I think teachers should be teaching. I also don’t give homework over the weekend, because again I think the kids should have a break.

So maybe my kiddos will be behind the other classes that did tons of extra work over UEA. But I think my kiddos will be better rested, and more prepared to return to school and dive back in.

Living the Dream

This is a photo I posted in 2011, captioned, “I’m gonna be a teacher when I grow up.”


You guys. I chose a major I love (two majors I love!) and BOTH of the fields were hiring, and I LOVE MY JOBS!!!! I just finished my first week of teaching 6th grade, and I am just full of joy. I love my kiddos, I love the curriculum, I love the position of influence I have, I love the relationships I’m developing, I love the book we’re reading together (Esperanza Rising), I love the multi-cultural class I have. I just love what I’m doing. Life is good.



Nothing compares to the exhaustion I experienced after the mission, but let me tell you, this comes close.

An Open Letter to My Students

Dear future students,

You are currently still enjoying Summer vacation. Technically so am I. Starting tomorrow, the kids in my neighborhood here in the Provo School District will no longer be enjoying Summer vacation, because for some odd reason they start a week before us. Tomorrow is also an important day for me, because I’ll be given a key to my classroom. That will give me the power to go to our room whenever I want, as long as the school is open. In other words, I pretty much have the same access you will. But I’ll be spending next week thinking about you like crazy, and getting our room ready for some serious magic. I hope you’re into that.

I went to Elementary school before the days of No Child Left Behind. That means my Elementary experience was vastly different than yours has been. You face countless standardized assessments, and the curriculum is carefully mandated by people that get paid a lot more than me. You also won’t have a swimming party at my house or get homemade brownies every time someone in our class has a birthday. The rules are different now.

When I was in 6th grade, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the newest Harry Potter book. It was way longer than any book I’d ever read, but I still read it in two days. You won’t have the excitement of waiting for a new HP book to be released, or even a new film (besides Fantastic Beasts!) but I’ve provided you with approximately five copies of each book in the series, so I’ll be really sad if you don’t read every single one this year. I did give you a Hogwarts acceptance letter, after all. Please like Harry Potter as much as I do.

Let me be really honest with you (something you can ALWAYS count on from me): this is my first year teaching full-time, and I’m kind of terrified. All my experience is in 3rd grade, and I just don’t know what to expect from you. I can guarantee I will never give you less than my best, because you absolutely deserve it. But I can also guarantee that I will not be perfect. You can count on me to make lots and lots of mistakes, but they will never be on purpose. Please be patient with me as we learn together. I promise to be patient with you.

My big goals for you this year are to help you learn to love to read, to be confident, and to plan for college. You are special, my friends. If you leave my class feeling anything other than special, then we need to talk. You can always talk to me.

We’re going to have our best year so far. I won’t spend it all preparing you for Middle School, because you deserve one last year of Elementary School. Can’t wait to see you soon!

Love, Miss Blair


Friends, I have the best job (for me) in the world. I absolutely LOVE teaching kids, and it brings me greater fulfillment than almost anything else I’ve done in my life. Interestingly enough, a substantial amount of people feel the need to tell me how they could NEVER teach Elementary school, and how brave they think I am. My response? Lol. I get up excited every morning!

But in response to people who don’t understand why a person would ever want to be a teacher, I bring you The Starfish Story, which was introduced to me by my principal in 2nd grade.


That is why I teach. And why I wear starfish earrings sometimes.

Exciting Announcement!

Aloha, friends! Today I just wanted to share one really exciting piece of news from this week:

I PASSED THE TEST REQUIRED TO START MY STUDENT TEACHING!!!!! It was a beastly 4-hour, $150 exam called the Praxis 2, and the majority of students that took it last semester failed it the first time. So… you can imagine where my expectations were. I was positive I failed at least the Social Studies section (no, I have no idea what the topic of the 1960s novel Silent Spring was), but I didn’t! Yay!


So now I’m one step closer to becoming an actual teacher! #almostanadult