Middle School Hero

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 05 2013

First day of school jitters

For roughly the first six weeks of school last year, I felt nauseous on the way to RMS. Between the moment that I woke up and the moment when the bell rang to start the day, I would dry heave exactly one time. It was never more, but it wasn’t until mid-September that this did not occur. After that, I (somewhat) developed a grasp on teaching and things slowed down, if just a bit. I wasn’t good, not by any means, but I figured out enough to get by.

Once that time in my life passed, I thought it was over forever. I just couldn’t imagine a situation that would make me nervous to the point of sickness day after day ever being a part of my life again. I attributed it to a rare combination of being in the “real world” for the first time, being woefully underprepared and inexperienced, being so afraid of failing my kids, and being frustrated by everything that I was learning about our education system. I couldn’t see myself ever again being in a place where innocence is ripped away like a Band-Aid in a public and exhausting manner.

Now, it’s exactly one year later and I feel the exact same way. Once again, I feel like a first year teacher. I’m physically ready- I’ve got my syllabus ready, my PowerPoint loaded onto my computer (although still no projector), and my rosters printed off. But I’m mentally in another place. I’ve spent my evening pacing around the house, listening to the same two songs over and over, driving to Target to buy more stickers and candy just for something to do, but that knot deep in my stomach just won’t leave.

Guys, last fall was one of the lowest points in my life. Not only was I not in a good place for myself, I did nothing good for my students. The only thing, literally the only thing that I can say was a positive takeaway from my first two months of teaching was that it provided me with a tremendous experience. I can only hope that now I can take those experiences and adjust so I don’t have to go through them again. It’s not the school or the students that are giving me this nervousness- its the memory of that deep-seated unhappiness. It took me a long time to find my identity again after that.

Tomorrow, I will wake up early. I will text many, if not most, of the teachers that I know, and I will wish them luck. This text will most likely include an exclamation point that will portray me as excited, enthusiastic, and prepared, but I will not feel these things. I will bounce around school in the morning, high fiving other teachers, cracking jokes, and providing the building with an energy that I will not feel. When kids enter RMS for the first time this year, they will see a teacher with a warm smile and a welcoming demeanor (although I will not slap them on the back or shake their hands upon their arrival, a snarky reference to my first day of school last year).

My prayer is that tomorrow goes great. And then Tuesday goes great. And then the rest of my first week goes great, and then I will realize that last year was just that- last year. And my associations with August and September as dark, dark days will fade. And my second year will go great. And I will leave my time here fulfilled and empowered. And the gap will close and maybe I will have had a small hand in bringing that about. And no one will ever be sad again. We’ll see.

I know this post has been all over the place, but that’s one of the benefits of being a college graduate. Professor Lemon, I will not edit this and you can’t make me. I write this blog to show others what it’s like to teach in a low-income school. In that regard, today’s takeaway is quite simple: teaching, working, and living here is an intensely human endeavor. There are ups and downs and uncertainties. I don’t know how tomorrow or the future in general will play out and it is that unknown that keeps me wary. I wish I could be more encouraging right now, but I think my role right now is to give credence to those who might be feeling the same way. Good night to all, and to those of you starting school for the first, second, or thirtieth time, good luck.

3 Responses

  1. Teaching is incremental. Every year you will gain insights that you did not have the year before. Concentrate on the things that worked for you last year. Try to implement those successes into your teaching as well as new ideas that you find are working.
    Focus on why you went into teaching in the first place and keep that in front of you all the time. Set one or two goals, work towards them and when you have reached them move onto new ones. Track them and slowly you will build a foundation of accomplishment. Good Luck!

  2. G

    Your second year will be different…better…even though you might not see it that way just yet. Hope your first day back was a good one!

  3. Zebra

    I hope your day went well.

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