Every year about this time it begins.
Every year. Without fail.
The last two nights it’s happened again.
Nightmares about the beginning of school.
It’s getting close to the end of summer, but I know I have plenty of time left. Time to work on the house, go on a little end of summer vacation, write, ride my bike in the morning without being rushed, or think of my next dinner and the required shopping list.
What you didn’t see listed is lesson planning, calling parents, worrying about a student’s academic challenges, considering a parent’s concerns and how I might address them, SOL preparation, grading papers, or making today’s lesson better,
And that’s ok. I have time. Still some time left before those school year realities begin.
My mind, however, thinks otherwise.
It’s rare that a summer doesn’t include some sort of a series of nightmares driven by anxiety or what the unknown future holds. It happens not just during testing, but also about this time of year.
What do these nightmares contain?
Here’s a glimpse.
Students out of control. Throwing paper airplanes, out of their seats, not listening to my instructions, screaming at the top of their lungs, talking to one another, still not listening to me, rearranging their desks, destroying their notebooks, not facing me as I try to regain control, and lastly, mocking my efforts, still not listening to me – in fact they are turning their backs to me in defiance.
Even now my anxiety has risen. Cold sweat is about to start rolling down my forehead.
You would think that after over a decade of teaching that this teaching thing is all second nature. That I can enter a new year of teaching students without a thought, do it in my sleep even.
This just isn’t possible. Not for me anyway.
Perhaps because over a decade’s worth of teaching has provided a good number of surprises.
I’ve had my share of students proudly exclaiming to both myself and the rest of the class that they weren’t going to do the work – it didn’t matter what I was going to do either – they proudly told me that too.
I’ve worried about students when they have been in the bathroom too long. I’ve worried as I’ve looked around as we headed through the school building only to start stressing about the whereabouts of a particular student – they were absent that day and I had forgotten.
I worry about the quiet ones that don’t quite know yet that I’m there because of them. That their voice is important, that taking a guess is ok. I worry that maybe no one has ever told them that they count. Some of them won’t believe in themselves and think that they have no god given gifts. I worry that I won’t make a connection that will help them see that regardless of challenge, they can indeed overcome it.
I stress about the unruly ones. The ones that come to school and act either completely different than they do at home or exactly how they act at home, either way, not good.
I feel though, that I am lucky. I am not a kindergarten teacher who instructs half their class, or more, on what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Those colleagues take students who may have never been read to or may have never seen an educational tv program (you know, Sesame Street) and then teach them what it means to learn and prove that learning. Kindergarten teachers are amazing – their gift for patience and love seems unending.
I’ll add that when I taught fifth grade, they would say similar things about my job and how they could never do what I did. The feeling, my K friends, is mutual.
So I am lucky that for several years before my students arrive in my class, they have already been taught right from wrong, what a test requires, and hopefully that asking questions is ok.
Therefore when that student comes to me and begins the first day being defiant, I don’t think that it’s me. When a student spends the first few days trying to be impressive for all the wrong reasons, I am stunned and cautious. They’ve made an interesting first impression and I have to wonder, what’s next?
So for these reasons I expect the nightmares to continue.
But I suppose there’s a reason for the anxiety. Until that first day of school when the unknown becomes the familiar, I will worry about each of my students.
Even though I haven’t met them, don’t recognize their faces, don’t know their personalities, character or aptitude for math, I will worry.
I worry because I want this year not to just be impactful, but also a place they want to arrive each day. So here’s to what awaits all of my fellow teachers and I.
An opportunity to impact a few, a few more, maybe even connect with the majority. Soon the bell will ring and the first-day-of-school-jitters will be felt by both my students and I. We will settle into our routine and begin the new year learning together.
For now though, I hope the nightmares end soon.
I would love for you to comment on this blog and share your specific anxieties about the new year. How do you overcome the nervousness?
Am I the only one waking up in the middle of the night from the sound of paper hitting the back of my head?