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  • Megan Vining

Message 4: A Chapter Closes - The First and Final Four Years

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

My friends and family call me Megan, but there are some who called me Ms. Vining! I had the privilege of shaping little minds and hearts as an elementary school teacher for four years. Although this post was hard to put into words, the time has come to say goodbye. I am excited to let you in on the first and final four years of my teaching career.


I graduated college in December of 2018 with high hopes and big dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher. I wanted to help children learn and grow in our world where change is inevitable. I was someone who really struggled in school. I did enough to get by, made good grades, and had good rapport with my teachers. However, I wasn’t really confident in my learning abilities. I was never in advanced or honor classes. Even when I was in elementary school, I always knew there were children that were smarter than me and that really hurt my confidence for a long time. I changed my major to Elementary Education my sophomore year of college because I didn’t want any other students to feel the way I did growing up. I wanted to show students that you don’t always have to be in the highest classes or at the nicest school to one day become successful. As long as you work hard, try your best, work well with others, and find your passion in life… you too can make your dreams come true like I did.

Year 1: The Beginning, the Highs, and the Lows

In the fall of 2019, I began my career as an elementary school teacher in Chattanooga, TN. I worked hard all summer to get ready to welcome 18 new students into my classroom in August. I was excited to start my first day in the real world, but also very nervous. I had many thoughts running through my head like, “Will the students like me?” “How do I handle behavior when it arises?” “Am I really qualified to teach all of these seven year olds?” “How do I manage my time and stay on schedule for the day?” I was in for a very big shock and wake up call. Teachers say this all the time that you won’t really know what to do until you start. You can only learn to become a teacher by actually getting into the classroom and doing it. I am very grateful for my college experience and appreciate how hard my professors worked to prepare us for our career in teaching. However, nothing got me more prepared than walking into my classroom on Day 1 and realizing it’s all up to me now! Can you say, “TERRIFYING?” My first year came with many highs and lows.

Highs: This was the best class I have ever had. I was SO lucky to get such amazing students both academically and emotionally. Now that I am no longer teaching, I can now say this was my favorite group of students! They were kind, funny, outgoing, excited, and most of all friendly to each other. I was excited to come to work everyday and teach them new things. My favorite subject to teach in my first year was probably science because of all the fun experiments we got to do. Also, youtube is your best friend when it comes to this block because of all the educational songs that have been created to help students retain information.

Lows: Everyone in the world went into lockdown because of Covid ‘19. Just when I was getting comfortable in my teaching abilities and growing confidence, we went home for spring break in March and never came back into the building. I remember talking with other teachers during dismissal that day and most of them thought that we would be gone for two weeks tops. However, I didn’t feel that way. The world was slowly shutting down. Schools in Nashville were being closed left and right. I knew it was only a matter of time until Chattanooga was affected. Long story short… no one was prepared to teach in a virtual setting on zoom, especially me. I never thought my first year of teaching would end up being me stuck in my apartment for three months trying my best to teach through a computer screen, keep students engaged, and still expect to meet district expectations. Can you say, “LORDT.” Those were some dark and scary times! The unknown was the hardest part. The end of May quickly came and my first year of teaching came to a close with a car parade around our school neighborhood wishing students well and sending them off on summer break!

Year 2: The “Loop” Year

Before I tell you about year two, let me take you back to the end of year one. I met with my administration on zoom for my end of year meeting. This is where I learned that they wanted me to move to 3rd grade BUT with a catch. They offered me the opportunity to loop with my first year students and continue teaching them the following school year. This was the BEST news I could have received. I had such a good time with this group, and I couldn’t wait to welcome them into my classroom once again in August 2020. Because of the COVID restrictions, we started this school year on an A/B Hybrid schedule where half of my students came two days a week with Wednesays being a virtual learning day on Zoom. I won’t go into as much detail as Year 1, but this school year came with many highs and lows as well. Skip to November, we went on Thanksgiving break, and I got COVID for the first time. I lost my taste and smell for a month, didn’t get to go home to see my family, and did not return to school until early December. That was a hard two weeks. When I returned to school, many teachers were getting sick and the county eventually put everyone back on virtual school before Winter break, and we did not return into the building until the end of January.. I think. This was so long ago that all the smaller details are a bit of a blur. The spring semester was better because we were consistently in the building. We got to enjoy field day, our end of year carnival, and so many other events at the end of the year. I also really enjoyed “attempting” to teach my students cursive writing. They really enjoyed it, and I had a fun time watching them learn how to write their names in a new way.

Year 3: The Year Where Things Began to Change

My third year of teaching was different because I would be welcoming a new group of students into my classroom after my first group of kiddos were moving to fourth grade. I was really nervous to teach a new group of students but excited to be staying in 3rd grade for another year! The content is so fun to teach, especially multiplication which all students are excited to learn. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but this was a really hard year for me. I had many energetic boys and a few parents who didn’t always give me support. This is the year where I started to question whether or not I wanted to continue being a teacher. This was also the year where things in my personal life weren’t going according to plan and felt like everything was slowly falling apart. I’ll spare you all of the details but by the end of year three I was ready to give it all up. BUT after some conversation with friends and family, I decided to give it one more year.

Year 4: My Toughest and Final Year of Teaching

I’ve said it before, but year four was quite different because this was the year where I went back down to second grade, but also became departmentalized where I would only be teaching ELA. In Hamilton County, this meant teaching Module and Skills Block from a curriculum called EL Education. Can I just say this curriculum really does have so much potential, but when you teach at a school where 13/18 of your students are English as a New Language Learners, and most of your students are below grade level… It’s hard work. The positive side of year four was definitely becoming departmentalized. This change by our administration definitely kept me from quitting mid year, which yes, I did contemplate. After a very hard start, I knew by mid-August (yes two weeks into school) that I would be leaving for good at the end of the year. I did not say it out loud until mid-October or so after a conversation with my bestie, Allison! But like all things, once you say something out loud, it's all you can think about.

My homeroom class was definitely easier than my second class in regards to teaching and building relationships with students. My second class came with a few challenging “friends” that forced my attention at all times. One look away or when my back was turned, and one friend was sweeping the room with his back (teachers know what this means) or doing parkour on the desks and student cubbies. This hilarious, but very energetic student kept me on my toes ALL year! I told my admin in January, in my mid-year meeting, that I would not be returning for the 23-24 school year.

After this conversation, the rest of the year became very hard motivationally, but my co-workers were very supportive and always had my back. They helped when they could and supported me in ways I will cherish forever. I want to end this by saying THANK YOU to Aly, for literally carrying the team on her back. You went above and beyond this year, and I will always be grateful for your dedication to your job. I also want to give a shout out to Ms. Vaughn and Ms. Gaddis. These ladies were my saviors this year. If you ever have the opportunity to work with these two, consider yourself very lucky!

I want to give my final shoutout to my teammate and hallway neighbor, Chanscey. This girl balanced motherhood and teaching like a champ. She is the co-worker you can go to when things get hard because she gets it. She was there for me in ways I cannot express, and I will always remember it. Love you ladies so much! Morning duty will forever be my favorite part of year four because of these three ladies!

A Chapter Closed

My name is Megan, and this is my final goodbye, for now!

All my love,

Ms. Vining

Year 1: 2nd Grade

Year 2: 3rd Grade

Year 3: 3rd Grade

Year 4: 2nd Grade

​Ms. Vining, Mrs. Kelley, Mr. Payne, Mrs. Till, and Mrs. Leverette

​Mrs. Martinez, Ms. Vining, Mrs. Adkins, Ms. Hoefflin, and Ms. Barry

Ms. Kazem, Ms. Barry, Mrs. Till, Ms. Vaughn, and Ms. Vining

​Ms. Vining, Ms. Jarrett, Ms. Broeren, Ms. Barry, and Mrs. Kelley



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