I decided that I do in fact think my kids are better this year than last. and my 2nd year is better than my 1st.
Now that things are well under way, and I'm comfortable in my classroom (which really does feel different even though it mostly looks the same), I realized that I like my second year.
I still have some of the same ol struggles of not being prepared, not fully knowing what i'm teaching (ok, i have to teach the cultures of the world - the whole freakin world), having too much on my plate, not really knowing how to challenge the smarter students while making sure the slower students are on the same page (sometimes literally). But I take comfort in knowing that I'm getting better at all of those things and that even veteran teachers haven't quite figured some of them out.
There's a part of me that will always love and romanticize my first year and my first students. They were truly a part of something special. But seeing them in seventh grade and comparing them to my darling sixth graders, I realize that I do have a good bunch this year. They are sweet, attentive, interested in learning. I have some that are very smart, but they don't necessarily blow my class off. I have some that are not quite with us, but are working very hard to get there. They all seem to like me (which yes, is important to me) and have fun with me.
I offered an opportunity to participate in putting together a mock election on this campus (which again, shows how much i've grown that i'm willing to sponsor something on my own!). I had 3 7th and 3 8th graders show up and about 20 6th graders. They all jumped right in and are planning this whole thing. They are making the decisions. They are creating the ballots and working the registration table. They are creating booths and deciding what would be an appropriate distance for privacy. They decided that a photo ID is required and that they need to register ahead of time in order to make it realistic. They researched outside of class and discussed with adults how our election could be as much like the real one as possible. I could not be more proud of them (and ok I'm proud of myself for following through).
I think this year is going to be ok.