“My first student came in at 7:33am to drop off his Yankees hat, marking his desk. By this point, I’m already half-way through my miniature pot of coffee. I’ve seen a few kids I recognize from student teaching, some smiled and yelled, some walked by staring at the ceiling. A few building vets have walked by my door and smiled; I just want the students to come in already. For some strange reason, “Hide Your Love Away” by the Fab Four is on a loop in my head (mostly the parts about standing head in hands with my face turned to the wall). Am I nervous you ask? I think so, but I’m not sure. Nothing is certain until that bell rings. Mostly, I’m just excited and I wish I hadn’t come so early. There are still 15 minutes until first hour starts. Already this is better than my first day as a sub; I stopped an escalating girl fight at the verbal stage as I was walking to my room at the very beginning of the day. I suppose there is still time for a fight, but I think most kids just want to get through today alive. Me too. ”
That was all before the first bell. I wanted a core sample right before the big bang, a harmonic stress test on my semi-concrete nerves; I needed, as I often do, to write. Now it’s hours after the final bell and the halls are empty. I can turn on some Dave Brubeck, un-tuck my shirt if I want, and turn my attention inward (I’ll call this “meta-cognition time” if my principal asks). All week I’ve been asked how nervous I was, how anxious, and how prepared I felt. Continually, I felt obligated to play the part of the skittish newbie, “of course I’m nervous” I said. I didn’t want to seem too nonchalant, but the words were cramped boots instead of comfy loafers and I marched on with them all the same. I tried to conceive what could make a well-prepared person uneasy on the first day of their career. “Was I prepared enough?” I wondered. I guess I was just ready.
I had done all my planning, scripted the cautious seconds between items on my agenda and filled my white-boards (and white spaces in time) with the appropriate information. It paid off! Can you believe it? I trusted in the skills I worked so hard to hone during student teaching, subbing, and my first few graduate courses; that little bit of trust in myself took me all the way through the day. Talk about green energy…this green horn felt alive-alert- awake-enthusiastic all day (a saying carried over in my head from days of camp counseling past).
Last night, my principal gave me a bag of candy as a gift for the first day of school. I don’t think she knew how much I needed that sugar. It kept me planning for another hour (I don’t endorse skipping dinner to plan, but in this case I simply delayed it) and that was part of the reason I was ready. I’m setting a few stepwise goals for myself as the week progresses. I don’t want to spend hours after school every day. My goal for today was to leave by 5:30 (our last bell is at 3:05). It’s a challenge for me because I am finding great joy in my job so far. I know I am prone to work from the workaholic’s cook book if I’m not careful, so I’ve set some boundaries for my personal time.
I truly believe in the separation of the private me from the public. I learned during student teaching that I taught better (regardless of planning and prep) on the days I left school earlier the day before and didn’t come in an hour and a half before the first bell. I started to see the benefits my sanity provided when coupled with the healthy attitude I always tried to project. I realized that the paperwork I had for the university would never truly disappear; it would merely take on different forms (grad classes, career ladder paperwork, curriculum development, professional development, et cetera) in the future. Once I accepted this fact, my priorities changed, I got more out of my mentoring sessions, heard conversations amongst other teachers differently, and found that the “little stuff,” indeed, was not worth sweating.
After one day in, I’m excited to be going back.