This feeling is invoked by more than walking around the halls and peering day after day into other classrooms that (granted, are much more established) seem more organized, creative, and efficient. It's more than meeting with my grade team and nodding in awe in response to their well-deep knowledge of content, their array of graphic organizers and other lesson tools that seem to flow like a river, and their second-hand nature knack at keeping track of and assessing student progress.
They have been where I am, a first-year teacher living on a prayer and a coveted dollar. But they have already walked through and been "baptized by fire". A passionate fire to be sure, for I think it highly unlikely that any human being could last 10+ years in the teaching profession without an authentic desire to teach and learn. Eventually, they found their own path, a way out of the sprawling and sometimes confusing woods-like world of the first year. Not without a lot of hard work and faith in themselves and others, to be sure - even if the latter was sometimes veiled by doubt and uncertainty.
I am in the heat of the thicket. Getting up every day before dawn to review my lesson plans, grade student work, and think ahead to the day's interactions. Soaking up as many ideas as I can from fellow teachers without coming off as a leech. Walking slowly with hands out through the benchmark assessment process; slowly chewing my way through how to approach progress monitoring and put together literacy and math groups; trying not to stumble over my recognition of missed assessment or classroom management opportunities.
Learning by doing - not always pretty, quite messy. I'll leave a lot behind from my first year. But I'll take some invaluable things to, which wouldn't be possible without holding the hands of others and walking the walk, right alongside my students. Their enthusiasm for life and learning is my steadfast source of inspiration. If I have learned anything yet, it's to forget everything I think I don't know; to keep on being inquisitive, whatever the cost; and to keep on giving all I can give of myself in the span of one day's passion-work.